Asthma is a long-term medical condition that affects your airways. Technically speaking, asthma affects your respiratory tract, which is another name for the tubes that transport air to and from your lungs. Asthma makes these tubes more sensitive, making them prone to inflammation and tightness. Around 5.4 million people in the UK are receiving treatment for asthma. The condition is more common in women than men, and most people are diagnosed as children. However, lots of people receive an asthma diagnosis later in life. This is called late-onset asthma and is also more common in women. Today, we’ll be focusing specifically on asthma symptoms and how to spot them. For more general information, read our useful guide to asthma.
The symptoms of asthma can vary and not everyone experiences all of them at the same time. They can also range from being rather mild to more serious. The four common asthma symptoms are:
- Coughing – Your coughs may keep coming back and can also be accompanied by a wheezing sound. You may find that your coughing is worse at night or early in the morning.
- Tight Chest – People with asthma often describe this feeling like having a heavy weight on their chest. It can feel similar to a dull ache or a sharp stabbing in your chest. This tightness often makes it difficult to take a deep breath.
- Breathlessness – You may find that you get short of breath rather easily, even after light or moderate activity. You may have to concentrate to regulate your breathing.
- Wheezing – This is a whistling sound that comes from your airways, commonly when you’re breathing out. This symptom can come and go, and the severity can also change.
Certain ‘triggers’ can often set off asthma symptoms. These triggers can be split into two separate categories:
- Allergic Asthma – When your symptoms are triggered by an allergic reaction to allergens such as pollen, pets or dust.
- Non-allergic Asthma – When your symptoms are caused by an irritant that you breathe in, such as cigarette smoke or exhaust fumes.
The condition is not curable, so if you develop asthma as an adult it’s likely that you’ll have the condition for the rest of your life. However, with the correct treatment, there is a good chance that you’ll be able to live a normal, active life without any asthma symptoms.
Sometimes your asthma symptoms can become more severe for a short period of time. This is known as an asthma attack and can happen suddenly or gradually over a few days. Asthma attacks are very serious and can be fatal; three people die from asthma attacks in the UK every day.
Therefore, it is vital to know how to spot an asthma attack and what to do if you have one. If you have a loved one with asthma, you should learn how to respond in the event that they have an asthma attack. Signs include:
- A very tight chest.
- Coughing and/or wheezing a lot.
- Being breathless and finding it difficult to walk or talk
- A rapid heartbeat and faster breathing.
- Blue lips or fingers.
- Feeling drowsy or dizzy.
- Your blue reliever isn’t helping, or you need to use it more than every four hours.
Asthma UK has put together a four-point guide on what to do during an attack:
- Sit up straight and try to remain calm.
- Take one puff of your reliever inhaler (usually blue) every 30-60 seconds, up to 10 puffs.
- If you feel worse at any point or you don’t feel better after 10 puffs, call 999 for an ambulance.
- Repeat the second step after 15 minutes whilst you’re waiting for an ambulance.
Learn more about Asthma
If you’re looking to learn a little more about asthma, we have an in-depth guide on our blog. The guide explains what asthma is, as well as common asthma symptoms, causes, and the treatments available.
Stay Safe with a Lifeline Alarm
If you have asthma, it might be worth considering a Lifeline alarm. With an alarm system in place, you’ll be able to call for help in an emergency with just the touch of a button. This could make a crucial difference in the event of an asthma attack. The Lifeline alarm can also offer you and your loved ones much-needed peace of mind. To find out more about our personal alarm service, please give our friendly team a call on 0800 999 0400. Alternatively, send us an email to email@example.com and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
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Editor’s Note: This article was updated on 23rd August 2021 to reflect current information.
Originally published January 2019.