What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of asthma include:

  • shortness of breath
  • wheezing – making a noise like a whistle when you breathe out
  • tightness in the chest
  • coughing

Sometimes the airways only narrow a little, resulting in mild symptoms. But some people’s airways can become so narrow that they can’t get enough oxygen into their lungs and their bloodstream. This is very dangerous and requires immediate medical attention.

What triggers symptoms?

Anything that irritates and inflames your airways can make your asthma worse. This could be an infection or something you breathe in. The air itself can make asthma worse, for example if you are breathing more quickly or if the air is cold or damp. Common situations – or triggers – are:

Physical activity, particularly running in cold weather, can make asthma worse. This is sometimes called exercise-induced asthma. But don’t avoid exercise. Taking your reliever medication before exercise can often prevent symptoms.

Next: Diagnosis of asthma >

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Last medically reviewed: April 2017. Due for review: April 2020

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.