Signs of an asthma attack

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Alternate Names

Symptoms

If you do not know if you have asthma, these 4 symptoms could be signs that you do:

  • Coughing -- sometimes waking you up at night.
  • Wheezing -- a whistling sound when you breathe. You may hear it more when you breathe out. It can start as a low-sounding whistle and get higher.
  • Breathing problems -- this includes having shortness of breath, feeling like you are out of breath, gasping for air, having trouble breathing out, or breathing faster than normal. When breathing gets very difficult, the skin of your chest and neck may suck inward.
  • Chest tightness

Other Warning Signs

Other early warning signs of y an asthma attack are

  • Having an itchy neck
  • Having dark bags under your eyes
  • Feeling tired
  • Being short-tempered or irritable
  • Being nervous or edgy

Danger Signs

Call 9-1-1 right away if you have any of the symptoms below. These are signs of a serious medical emergency.

  • You are having trouble walking or talking because it is so hard to breathe.
  • You are hunching over.
  • Your lips or fingernails are blue or gray.
  • You are breathing very slowly.

If your child has asthma, the child’s caregivers must know to call 9-1-1 if your child has any of these symptoms. This includes teachers, babysitters, and others who take care of your child.

References

National Asthma Education and Prevention Program Expert Panel Report 3: Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma. Rockville, MD. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, US Dept of Health and Human Services; 2007. NIH publications 08-4051.

Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 5/16/2012
  • Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

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This page was last updated: April 14, 2014

         
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