Asthma Symptoms

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the respiratory airway. It is also known as obstructive lung disease as there is an obstruction in the normal flow of air during respiration. This inflammatory condition is initially induced by different types of” triggers” which gradually leads to the obstructive condition as follows:

  • When the respiratory system comes in contact with a specific trigger the muscle cells of the bronchi will constrict (bronchial spasm) which causes further narrowing of air passages.
  • Excess mucus is secreted to the constricted airway.
  • Presence of excess mucus in the narrowed breathing tubes makes breathing difficult

Asthma has become a very common disease worldwide. According to recent reports there are over 150 million asthma patients globally. Early detection and treatment of asthma is very important as it is a life threatening disease. Onset of asthma might take place anytime once they get exposed to the triggers. The most common triggers are polluted air, dust, smoke, fumes, pollen, perfumes, certain drugs, chemicals, cold and wet climatic conditions, severe exercise and so on. These triggers are specific for each asthma patient. Genetic constitution of an individual also plays an important role in asthma as there are chances of getting asthma through heredity from close relatives.

The most common asthma symptoms include:


 Wheezing is one of the most common symptoms of asthma. In wheezing a high pitched musical whistle sound can be heard while breathing. Wheezing occurs as a result of narrowing and inflammation of breathing tubes due to mucus accumulation and bronchial constriction. Wheezing sound can be heard while both inhaling and exhaling. Wheezing is worst mostly at night and early hours of morning.

Shortness of breath

his is the next common asthma symptom. Here the patient experience difficulty in breathing or they will have a feeling of not getting enough air to breath. Like wheezing asthma patients often feel difficulty in breathing during night and early morning.


Coughing is a reflex action stimulated by sensory nerve fibres that lines the respiratory airway. The blast of air that comes out while coughing helps in cleaning the respiratory air way by expelling out dust, dirt and excess secretions.

Tightness of chest

A feeling of chest tightness is experienced as a result of difficulty in inhaling and exhaling air during respiration. The constriction of air passages along with the mucous secretion is the main reason for this.

Difficulty in speaking

The sufferers of asthma often feel difficulty in speaking when the attack is severe. This is mostly associated with difficulty in breathing. The patient will have to take breath after each word and will be able to complete a sentence only after several inhalation processes.

Symptoms For Asthma in Adults

Emergency Asthma Symptoms

The emergency asthma symptoms which require immediate medical attention are:

  • Bluish colouring of the lips and face – This is due to the very low level of oxygen in blood.
  • Extreme difficulty in breathing- Due to constriction and mucus accumulation in the airways
  • Severe anxiety- due to fear of breathlessness
  • Sweating-  Seen in the extreme case of asthma attack
  • Rapid pulse- due to increase in heart rate or tachycardia.

The asthma symptoms may vary depending upon the severity of the condition. Some asthma patients may experience strong symptoms where as others may have mild symptoms. Based on the severity of the symptoms asthma is further classified as follows:

Mild Intermittent

Here the frequency of symptoms is seen less than once per week and night symptoms less than twice per month. Mild asthma is seasonal or spasmodic. Patient will have only mid breathlessness with moderate wheezing, they will be able to talk in sentences. Pulse rate in this case is usually 100 per min. Bronchodilators are usually used for the treatment of mild intermitted asthma.

Mild Persistent

In mild persistent asthma the symptoms are seen more than once per week and less than twice per day. Here night symptoms are seen more than twice per month.  Patient might feel breathlessness while talking and will have to take breath more than once to complete a sentence. They experience loud wheezing and usually have a pulse rate of 100-200 per min. Treatment of symptoms is done by the inhalation of Beta-agonist medicine and to prevent the case steroid medication is done daily.

Moderate Persistent

In this case the symptoms are seen daily with night attacks more than once per week. The breathlessness is severe and will have to take breath after each word. This mostly affects the overall daily activity. Treatment is usually done with steroid medication.

Severe Persistent

In severe persistent asthma there will be daily attacks with frequent night symptoms. Here the breathlessness will be extremely severe and may require hospitalisation and emergency care. This form of asthma is rare only one among 2000 asthmatics suffers from this.  The onset of symptoms will be sudden and often life threatening. Treatment involves regular intake of steroid medicines and nebulisers are used to take bronchodilators.

The asthma symptoms may also vary with the type of asthma. Each type of asthma will have specific symptoms which may or may not be severe at particular time. Let us have a brief look over it.

In Nocturnal Asthma, symptoms are worse at night especially between 2 to 4 am. They sleeps very quick due to physical weakness but wakes up in between the sleep because of breathing difficulties. They experience severe cough, wheezing, trouble breathing at night and early hours of morning. This is life threatening, studies shows that most of the death related to asthma occurs at night.

The Bronchial Asthma is an allergic reaction. Here the attack is caused as a result of hypersensitivity to various air born allergens and certain food particles. The major symptoms are shortness of breath, loud wheezing and cough.

In Exercise Induced Asthma, the symptoms arise just after an exhausting exercise or sports activity. Wheezing is the major symptom in this case. Exercising particularly in the cold or winter season leads to this type of asthma attack.

Occupational Asthma is triggered by the allergens present at the work places. The symptoms usually includes sneezing, running nose, cough and eye irritation instead of severe  wheezing which is seen in most types of asthma. The condition often improves during holidays. This is mostly found among farmers, painters, animal breeders etc.

In Cough-Variant Asthma the only major symptom is extremely severe cough which is severe at night time. The symptom worsens after physical activity and exposure to cold and wet weather conditions.

Childhood Asthma is often characterised by coughing, wheezing shortness of breath chest tightness, sleeplessness and fatigue. These symptoms usually disappear as the child grows up due to various hormonal and physical changes that take place during this period along with proper medication.

Even though asthma is a life threatening disease, it can be controlled to a greater extend with the modern treatment procedures available. And the onset of asthma attack can be reduced by ruling out the cause and eliminating it.