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Health Issues

Asthma Symptoms and Facts

Asthma signs and symptoms range from minor to severe, and vary from person to person. You may have mild symptoms such as infrequent wheezing, with occasional asthma attacks. Between episodes you may feel normal and have no trouble breathing. Or, you may have signs and symptoms such as coughing and wheezing all the time or have symptoms primarily at night or only during exercise.

Asthma signs and symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness or pain
  • Trouble sleeping caused by shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing
  • An audible whistling or wheezing sound when exhaling
  • Bouts of coughing or wheezing that are worsened by a respiratory virus such as a cold or the flu

Signs that your asthma is probably getting worse include:

  • An increase in the severity and frequency of asthma signs and symptoms
  • A fall in peak flow rates as measured by a peak flow meter, a simple device used to check how well your lungs are working
  • An increased need to use bronchodilators — medications that open up airways by relaxing the surrounding muscles

Work with your doctor to determine when you need to increase your medications or take other steps to treat symptoms of worsening asthma and get your asthma back under control. If your asthma keeps getting worse, you may need a trip to the emergency room. Your doctor can help you learn to recognize emergency signs and symptoms so you'll know when to get help.

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