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Asthma

Asthma Symptoms

Asthma symptoms vary from person to person and vary over time in the same person. Common asthma symptoms may include:

  • Wheezing
  • Coughing (often worse at night or early in the morning)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness

Asthma attack

An asthma attack (or episode) is a worsening of symptoms, which may start suddenly or take several days to develop. Although some people typically have milder and less frequent asthma attacks than others, it's possible for anyone with asthma to have a severe attack. Treating symptoms early helps people avoid emergency symptoms from developing.

Emergency symptoms

If a person's asthma symptoms are left untreated, the following emergency symptoms may develop:

  • Extreme difficulty breathing
  • Bluish color of the lips and face (cyanosis)
  • Rapid pulse
  • Sweating
  • Drowsiness or confusion

People who experience these symptoms should seek emergency medical care immediately. In some cases a severe asthma attack may require a hospital stay, intravenous medicine (into a vein), and oxygen therapy.

Asthma severity levels

Asthma is not the same for everyone. Asthma symptoms are often grouped into four levels of severity. The levels are based on the frequency and intensity of a person's typical symptoms:

Mild intermittent asthma

People with mild intermittent asthma:

  • Have asthma symptoms twice a week or less.
  • Are bothered by nighttime symptoms twice a month or less.
  • Have normal lung function and no symptoms between episodes.

Mild persistent asthma

People with mild persistent asthma:

  • Have asthma symptoms more than twice a week, but no more than once in a single day.
  • Are bothered by nighttime symptoms more than twice a month.
  • May have their physical activity affected by their asthma attacks.

Moderate persistent asthma

People with moderate persistent asthma:

  • Have asthma symptoms every day.
  • Are bothered by nighttime symptoms more than once a week.
  • May have their physical activity affected by their asthma attacks.

Severe persistent asthma

People with severe persistent asthma:

  • Have asthma symptoms throughout the day on most days.
  • Are often bothered by nighttime symptoms.
  • Are likely to have limited physical activity.