Asthma - Symptoms 

Symptoms of asthma 

Media last reviewed: 01/11/2012

Next review due: 01/11/2014

The symptoms of asthma can range from mild to severe. When asthma symptoms get significantly worse, it is known as an asthma attack.

The symptoms of asthma include:

  • feeling breathless (you may gasp for breath)
  • a tight chest, like a band tightening around it 
  • wheezing, which makes a whistling sound when you breathe
  • coughing, particularly at night and early morning
  • attacks triggered by exercise, exposure to allergens and other triggers

You may experience one or more of these symptoms. Symptoms that are worse during the night or with exercise can mean your asthma is getting worse or is poorly controlled. Talk to your doctor or asthma nurse about this.

Asthma attack

A severe asthma attack usually develops slowly, taking 6 to 48 hours to become serious. However, for some people, asthma symptoms can get worse quickly.

As well as symptoms getting worse, signs of an asthma attack include:

  • you get more wheezy, tight-chested or breathless
  • the reliever inhaler is not helping as much as usual
  • there is a drop in your peak expiratory flow (see diagnosing asthma for more information)

If you notice these signs, do not ignore them. Contact your GP or asthma clinic or consult your asthma action plan, if you have one.

Signs of a severe asthma attack include:

  • the reliever inhaler, which is usually blue, does not help symptoms at all
  • the symptoms of wheezing, coughing and tight chest are severe and constant
  • you are too breathless to speak
  • your pulse is racing
  • you feel agitated or restless
  • your lips or fingernails look blue

Call 999 to seek immediate help if you or someone else has severe symptoms of asthma.




Page last reviewed: 23/07/2012

Next review due: 23/07/2014

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The 1 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

theboy9690 said on 13 November 2009

good to check about broncitis as well to make sure as the symptoms are like each other

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