Are you unsure if you have asthma? One way to determine that you might have asthma is to watch for signs and symptoms of this condition. In this article, we will review the common signs and symptoms of asthma, as well as tips for managing asthma.
What Happens During an Asthma Attack
An asthma attack is also known as a flare-up or episode. This is when asthma symptoms occur, and it may happen at any time. During an asthma flare-up, your body experiences three changes in your airways:
- Swelling inside the airways
- Excess mucus clogs the airways
- Muscles tighten and squeeze around the airways
These changes produce the signs and symptoms of asthma.
Signs & Symptoms of Asthma
Common signs and symptoms of asthma include:
- Shortness of breath
- Wheezing (a whistling sound when you breathe)
- Chest tightness or pain
- Waking during the night due to asthma symptoms
- A drop in your peak flow meter reading (if you use one)
It is important to note that not all people with asthma experience the same symptoms. Some may experience only one symptom, while others experience multiple. Overall, an asthma attack typically makes breathing a difficult and stressful task.
Tips for Managing Asthma
The signs and symptoms of asthma might sound scary (and they can feel scary, too, if you have an asthma flare-up), but you can take steps to manage your asthma. The first step is to talk with your doctor. He or she will be able to tell whether you have asthma based on your signs and symptoms. Your doctor can then help you create an asthma action plan, which helps you manage your asthma based on the symptoms you experience.
In the Green/Go Zone, your asthma is well controlled. This means you have all of these:
- No coughing or wheezing
- Breathing is good
- No chest tightness or pain
- You can sleep through the night
- You can work and play
In this zone, you take your control or preventive medications as prescribed.
In the Yellow/Caution Zone, your asthma is not controlled. In this zone, you start to experience the signs and symptoms of asthma listed above. You should take your asthma medication as soon as you start to experience symptoms. Monitor your symptoms until they improve. If your medication does not improve your symptoms, you should contact your doctor.
In the Red/Danger Zone, you need urgent medical care. In this zone, your quick-relief asthma medications may not be effective. The following are signs that you are in the Red/Danger Zone:
- Asthma getting worse quickly
- Asthma quick-relief medicine not helping
- Severe shortness of breath
- Chest pain or tightness
- Breathing that is faster or slower than usual
- Difficulty walking or talking due to shortness of breath
- Breathing may be hard or shallow
- Ribs or stomach moving in and out deeply and rapidly
- Shoulders hunched over
- Expanded chest that does not deflate when you exhale
- Chest retractions (skin sucks in around the neck, chest plate, and/or rib bones when inhaling)
- Cyanosis (A color change in the tongue, lips, around the eyes, fingertips, or nail beds. This appears as a bluish color in lighter skin tones and grayish or whitish in darker skin tones.)
If you experience symptoms in the Red/Danger Zone, you should take your quick-relief medicines and then immediately get medical attention by calling 911 or going directly to the emergency room.
How to Prevent Asthma Symptoms
Of course, it is best to avoid serious asthma symptoms. The following can help you do so:
- Avoid contact with your asthma triggers and allergens.
- Get vaccinated as recommended by your doctor.
- Create an asthma action plan with your doctor.
- Take your asthma medicines as directed.
- Take care of your general health.
For more information about the signs and symptoms of asthma and how you can manage your asthma, we invite you to contact us today at West River ENT & Allergy.