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Monday, March 1, 2010

The signs and symptoms of asthma

If you're an asthmatic, it's important you know your own signs and symptoms of asthma. If you're a doctor, nurse, respiratory therapist, mom, dad, aunt, uncle, teacher, friend, grandparent or guardian of an asthmatic, it's also important that you know the signs and symptoms of asthma.

That's right. Knowing your signs and symptoms and incorporating that into your personalized asthma action plan is essential. If you can notice a symptom early enough, you might be able to stave off an attack.

Likewise, if you have an asthmatic friend, coworker, relative or student, it's essential that you also know the signs and symptoms of asthma so you know what to do if the one you love, or the one you're taking care of, suddenly shows these signs.

That said, one of my recent posts at dealt with the signs and symptoms of asthma:

You Must Know the Signs and Symptoms of Asthma
by Rick Frea Tuesday, December 01, 2009 @

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommends in their asthma guidelines that every asthmatic work with his or her doctor to create an asthma action plan specifically for the individual. A key part of this plan is understanding the signs and symptoms of asthma.

The signs and symptoms of asthma can be different for each asthmatic. Some signs and symptoms can be observed by others -- such as parents, grandparents, teachers, day care workers and friends -- while others can only be felt by the asthmatic.

Based on the signs and symptoms we experience -- or observe -- we can decide based on our
asthma action plan what action to take next, such as what medicines to take, when to call the doctor and when to go directly to the emergency room.

According to, your body gives you early warning signs of asthma, signs an attack is ongoing, and signs of severe asthma.

Early Warning Signs: These are signs that an asthma attack has not started yet, and actions you take can prevent an attack from coming (such as using your bronchodilator):

  • Breathing changes
  • Feeling tired
  • Feel funny in chest
  • Headache
  • Easily upset
  • Feel week
  • Eyes look glassy
  • Dark circles under eyes
  • Feel sad
  • Get excited
  • Pale
  • Stuffy nose
  • Sweaty
  • Feverish
  • Grumpy
  • Chin or throat itches
  • Heart beats faster
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Change in sputum
  • Runny nose
  • Dry mouth
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Poor tolerance for exercise
  • Downward trend in peak flows

Signs of acute asthma attack: These are signs that an asthma attack is going on right now, and action must be taken to prevent them from getting worse (Like getting the asthmatic away from what triggered the attack and use of bronchodilator).

  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Peak flow numbers in the caution or danger range (usually 50% to 80% of personal best)

Signs of severe asthma episode: According to, "Severe asthma symptoms are a life-threatening emergency. If any of these severe asthma symptoms occur, seek emergency medical treatment right away, since these symptoms indicate respiratory distress."

  • Severe coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath or tightness in the chest
  • Difficulty talking or concentrating
  • Walking causes shortness of breath
  • Breathing may be shallow and fast or slower than usual
  • Hunched shoulders (posturing)
  • Nasal flaring (nostril size increases with breathing)
  • Neck area and between or below the ribs moves inward with breathing (retractions)
  • Gray or bluish tint to skin, beginning around the mouth (cyanosis)
  • Peak flow numbers in the danger zone (usually below 50% of personal best)

When I learned about asthma signs and symptoms when I was a kid it greatly helped me control my asthma. Even today, while I don't let my asthma stop me from doing anything, when I observe my early warning signs I know it's time to stop and take action.

Therefore, you can see why I think it is of utmost importance for every asthmatic, and every person who knows an asthmatic or takes care of one, to know his or her own unique signs and symptoms of asthma, and to have an asthma action plan.

(For sample asthma action plans click
here and here).

Note: The asthma guidelines recommend that you either monitor your symptoms or use a peak flow meter or both. The guidelines also note that both symptom monitoring or peak flow monitoring are equally effective.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. I think I am going to make a copy and post it at work. A co-worker had an asthma attack at work last week and no one knew what to do for her. I noticed that there was a problem and went to see if I could help. The only thing I knew to do was try to calm her down and get her to concentrate on her breathing. I also asked the people to call 911 now. My co-worker had left her inhaler at home because she hasn't needed it in awhile. It was the first question I asked when I saw what was going on. I felt so helpless because she was going down fast. This sheet will help us all with early signs and can do something sooner.
I thought about what would happen if this was me. I do keep my inhaler with me at all times, but I have already found myself in a bad situation when I didn't have any meds in my inhaler and didn't realize that I was out. That was only a month ago. My asthma is worse here in the state we are currently stationed in. I'm hoping the next state will be better for my asthma.

Thanks for the info,