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What Are The Signs of Asthma?

Learn About the Signs of Asthma and What You Need to Do


Updated October 28, 2010

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Signs of Asthma

Signs of Asthma

Photo © Digital Vison

Not everyone experiences the signs of asthma in a similar way. Some people may experience all the signs of asthma and others may experience just one. Just because you experience one of the signs of asthma, you don't necessarily have an asthma diagnosis. Finally, you may experience atypical signs of asthma, different from the ones mentioned here, or you may experience these asthma signs differently from how others experience the signs of asthma.

The 4 classic signs of asthma include:

  1. Coughing

    Coughing is one of the classic signs of asthma, especially if it is worse at night or if it makes it more difficult to sleep.
  2. Wheezing

    This classic sign of asthma is the whistling or squeaky sound that you might hear when you breathe. Wheezing is most commonly heard when you breathe out, but can also be heard when you breathe in. You can hear what wheezing sounds like here.

  3. Chest Tightness

    Sometimes this classic sign of asthma can masquerade as something else. There are a number of different things that cause chest tightness. If it feels like something is sitting on or squeezing your chest, you should talk to your doctor.

  4. Shortness of Breath

    You may feel like you can't catch your breath, or you may get out of breath when you experience this sign of asthma. Some patients describe this as feeling like they can't get air out of your lungs.

What Causes Asthma

If you experience the signs of asthma, you may also wonder what causes them. While the exact cause of asthma is unknown, we do know a lot about its risk factors.

How Is Asthma Diagnosed?

If you experience the signs of asthma, your doctor will make a diagnosis based on your medical history, a physical exam, and a number of different tests. Tests may include:

How Is Asthma Treated?

One concern when you experience the signs of asthma is that while there are good treatments for asthma, there is no asthma cure. Good asthma treatment will:

  • Prevent asthma symptoms
  • Prevent asthma attacks and reduce emergency room visits/hospitalization
  • Allow you to maintain your normal activities
  • Decrease your need to use your rescue inhaler

Avoiding Triggers Or Things That Worsen Your Asthma

Triggers are things that can cause you to experience signs of asthma or worsen your asthma symptoms. If you learn to avoid your asthma triggers you may not experience the signs of asthma.

Monitoring the Signs of Asthma

Once you have been diagnosed with asthma, monitoring becomes very important. You should discuss monitoring with your physician and develop an asthma action plan to tell you what to do when you develop symptoms.

Poor Asthma Control -- Are Your Signs of Asthma Getting Worse?

Your asthma may be getting worse if:

  • Your symptoms are increasing in frequency
  • You're able to do less
  • Your missing work or school
  • Your peak flows are decreasing
  • You're using a rescue inhaler more or it doesn't seem to work as well
  • You need to go to the emergency room or visit your doctor because of an asthma attack

If you experience any of these signs that your asthma worsening, make sure to talk to your doctor.


National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Accessed: October 22, 2010. Expert Panel Report 3 (EPR3): Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma

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