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Know the Signs: Asthma Attack Symptoms

What is asthma?

Asthma is a chronic lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways or bronchial tubes, making it difficult to breathe. If you have asthma, your airways are always inflamed. But if you are exposed to a trigger (allergens like dust, chemicals, pollen, etc.), the bands of muscle surrounding the airway tighten, the lining of the airway becomes more swollen and inflamed, and more mucus is produced, causing asthma symptoms. When this happens, it is called a flare-up or attack.

These symptoms can include:

  • Coughing, especially at night.
  • Chest tightness.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Difficulty breathing.

It’s important to note that symptoms can vary from person to person — some may experience these exact symptoms while others may not. They can be very mild to severe, lasting for a few minutes or possibly occurring for hours or even days. They may develop when you are exposed to your triggers, or you may experience them every day. When symptoms become more intense and/or more symptoms occur, you may be having an asthma attack, which requires emergency care.

Know the Early Warning Signs

Early warning signs are changes that happen at the very beginning of an asthma attack and are the earliest signs that your asthma is worsening. Most often, these symptoms are not severe enough to stop you from daily activities, but it’s important to treat these symptoms when you first notice them to prevent them from becoming worse and possibly causing an asthma attack.

  • Frequent cough, especially at night
  • Losing breath easily/shortness of breath
  • Feeling tired or weak during exercise
  • Wheezing or coughing after exercise
  • Feeling tired, irritable
  • Decrease or changes in lung function as measured on your peak flow meter
  • Signs of a cold or allergies (sneezing, running nose, cough, congestion, headache, sore throat)
  • Trouble sleeping

If you are having any of these symptoms, you should follow your asthma action plan.

You can control your asthma! By knowing your signs, symptoms, and triggers, you can manage your asthma to be active and healthy!