Return to Previous Page

Do You Know the Warning Signs of Asthma?

Asthma image Recognizing the signs and symptoms of asthma is important so that treatment and other interventions can begin early. If severe symptoms are present, it is vital to begin the appropriate treatment immediately. Accurate and timely assessment of symptoms can help you and your doctor decide if treatment should begin in the home, at your doctor’s office, or in the emergency room.

Early Warning Signs of Asthma
Early warning signs are experienced before the start of an asthma episode. By recognizing these clues, early treatment can begin. These signs can be different for each person, and they may even differ for the same person with each episode. Some early warning signs may be noticed only by the individual, while others are more likely to be noticed by other people. In ad­dition, a downward trend in peak flow numbers can be a reliable early warning sign. Additional early warning signs include breathing changes, sneezing, moodiness, headache, runny or stuffy nose, coughing, chin or throat itchiness, feel­ing tired, dark circles under your eyes, trouble sleeping, and poor tolerance for exercise.

Asthma Episode Symptoms
Asthma symptoms indi­cate that an asthma episode is occurring. Changes have taken place in the airways and airflow is obstructed. Asthma epi­sode symptoms include wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, and peak flow numbers in the caution or danger range. Individuals with asthma experience some or all of these symptoms during an asthma episode, and action should be taken to treat these symptoms before they become worse.

Severe Asthma Episode Symptoms
Severe asthma symp­toms indicate a life-threatening emergency. These include severe coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, or tightness in the chest; difficulty talking or concentrating; experiencing shortness of breath when walking; breathing that is shallow and fast or slower than usual; hunched shoulders; nasal flaring; neck area and between or below the ribs moving inward with breathing; a gray or bluish tint to the skin, beginning around the mouth; and peak flow numbers in the danger zone.

If any of these severe asthma symptoms occur, seek emergency medical treatment right away, as these symp­toms indicate respiratory distress.


Source: National Jewish Health,

This article was originally published in Coping® with Allergies & Asthma magazine, Winter 2011-2012.