4 Signs You May Have Asthma

Signs of Asthma

Woman using Asthma inhaler in garden
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Not all that wheezes is asthma. Asthma can sometimes be very tricky. You may experience all of the signs of asthma that will be discussed here or you may not experience any of these symptoms. If you suspect that you have asthma then you need to see a doctor to get your symptoms checked out.

There are also a number of diseases that lead to wheezing but are not asthma such as:

1. Congestive heart failure- heart conditions where the heart's pump is failing and unable to provide an adequate blood supply. In addition to some similar symptoms to asthma patients have difficulty breathing while lying down and swelling in both legs.

2. Pulmonary Embolism or PE- ​A PE sometimes leads to wheezing, a classic asthma symptom, but sudden onset shortness of breath and chest pain are much more common.

3. Cystic Fibrosis (CF)-  CF patients will wheeze, shortness of breath and cough. However, this chronic illness is also associated with poor growth and a number of other problems in early childhood.

4. Gastroesophageal Reflux disease (GERD)- GERD may lead to wheezing and cough and commonly is responsible for nighttime asthma symptoms. Patients commonly experience a painful burning sensation as well as a sour or bitter taste in the back of the mouth.


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Wheezing is the sign of asthma most commonly associated with asthma and the most common reason patients and parents seek care when concerned about asthma. The high-pitched whistle is most commonly heard as you exhale, or breathe out.  However, wheezing may also occur when inhaling or breathing in and usually indicates poorer asthma control.  Wheezing is differentiated from stridor, decreased airflow that results from obstruction outside the lung. In wheezing inflammation causes narrowing of the airways inside of the lung resulting in decreased air flow through the lung.

Wheezing can also occur with a number of other diseases.

Shortness of Breath

Difficulty Breathing
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Shortness of breath is the feeling of breathlessness and inability to catch your breath that you may experience with asthma. This classic asthma symptom can be experienced before diagnosis or be a sign of poor asthma control.

Shortness of breath is never normal, but it is also not unexpected with very strenuous exercise or travel to high altitudes such as Breckenridge, CO. Additionally, moderate exercise in an obese patient also may lead to shortness of breath with less than expected exertion.

This difficulty breathing may be referred to as dyspnea by your physician and others may refer to it as "air hunger" or the sensation of not being able to catch your breath. Different people may name or describe it differently because they experience the symptoms differently. Some patients are not able to do as much activity as they were in the past. Additionally, the symptom will come on suddenly for some and more gradually for others. If asthma is the cause for you, you may be able to tell if this is typical for your asthma or not.


Young woman coughing
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Cough is a common complaint patients have when seeing the doctor, especially during cold and flu season. It can signify something bad in patients at risk for lung cancer, be one sign of a bacterial infection, or it could just be a simple virus. Cough is also part of your body's normal defense mechanisms.

A chronic cough can also be a sign of poor asthma control.  If your doctor is concerned about asthma they are likely to ask you about coughing at night as well as with exercise. In asthma patients, a night time cough more than twice per week may mean you need to step up your asthma medications.

Chest Tightness

Chest Tightness
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Chest tightness may occur along with the other classic asthma symptoms or all alone. Patients generally describe it as the very uncomfortable feeling of air not moving in their lungs. Patients commonly say "I just feel tight." For many patients, this causes a significant amount of anxiety as they think they will be unable to adequately breathe.

Signs of Asthma

Nurse reviewing medical chart with patient holding inhaler
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No matter what signs of asthma you are experiencing you want to make sure that you get them checked out. As stated earlier, not all that wheezes is asthma and many of these symptoms can occur in multiple diseases. It is important that all of your symptoms get evaluated.

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