Most children and adults with asthma have times when their breathing becomes more difficult.
Some people with severe asthma may have breathing problems most of the time.
The most common symptoms of asthma are:
- wheezing (a whistling sound when breathing)
- a tight chest – it may feel like a band is tightening around it
Many things can cause these symptoms, but they're more likely to be asthma if they:
- happen often and keep coming back
- are worse at night and early in the morning
- seem to happen in response to an asthma trigger like exercise or an allergy (such as to pollen or animal fur)
See a GP if you think you or your child may have asthma, or you have asthma and are finding it hard to control.
Asthma can sometimes get worse for a short time – this is known as an asthma attack. It can happen suddenly, or gradually over a few days.
Signs of a severe asthma attack include:
- wheezing, coughing and chest tightness becoming severe and constant
- being too breathless to eat, speak or sleep
- breathing faster
- a fast heartbeat
- drowsiness, confusion, exhaustion or dizziness
- blue lips or fingers
Read about what to do during an asthma attack.
Page last reviewed: 19 February 2018
Next review due: 19 February 2021