Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Asthma symptoms include a cough, wheezing, chest tightness and breathlessness.

Asthma symptoms include a cough, wheezing, chest tightness and breathlessness.
beginning of content

Asthma symptoms

If you have asthma, you may have one or more of these symptoms:

  • feeling breathless (you may gasp for breath)
  • a tight chest, like a band tightening around it
  • wheezing, a whistling sound when you breathe
  • coughing, particularly at night and early morning
  • attacks triggered by exercise, exposure to allergens (allergy triggering substances such as dust or animal hair) and other triggers.

When asthma symptoms get significantly worse, this is known as an "asthma attack". A severe asthma attack usually develops slowly, taking 6 to 48 hours to become serious. However, for some people, asthma symptoms can get worse quickly.

Having a written asthma self-management plan, developed with your doctor, can help you to know how to best manage your asthma. It can also help you to know what to do in an asthma attack.

In a severe asthma attack, other things may happen such as:

  • The reliever inhaler, which is usually blue, does not help symptoms at all.
  • The symptoms of wheezing, coughing, tight chest are severe and constant.
  • You are too breathless to speak.
  • Your pulse is racing.
  • You feel agitated or restless.
  • Your lips or fingernails look blue.

Call triple zero (000) to seek immediate help if you or someone else has severe symptoms of asthma.

If you or someone you know has asthma, it is important to have an asthma action plan and to understand emergency asthma first aid. You can find out more details on the National Asthma Council website.

Last reviewed: July 2016

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 1462 results

Asthma symptoms in children and teenagers | Raising Children Network

Asthma symptoms include wheezing, coughing and breathing difficulty, but asthma symptoms can also be vague. Read what to look for and when to see a doctor.

Read more on Raising Children Network website

Asthma - Daily Asthma Symptoms Diary | The Sydney Children's Hospitals Network

Read more on Sydney Children's Hospitals Network website

Thunderstorm Asthma - Factsheet

Thunderstorm asthma is a potent mix of pollen and weather conditions that can trigger severe asthma symptoms

Read more on National Asthma Council Australia website

Thunderstorm asthma information for patients and carers - National Asthma Council Australia

Thunderstorm asthma is a potent mix of pollen and weather conditions that can trigger severe asthma symptoms.

Read more on National Asthma Council Australia website

Bushfires and asthma - National Asthma Council Australia

For people with asthma living in high risk bushfire zones, the bushfire season is time to be on high alert for asthma symptoms. Smoke and increased air pollution from fires can trigger asthma symptoms, as can high emotions such as stress and anxiety.

Read more on National Asthma Council Australia website

Asthma Emergency - An Asthma Australia site

Any person with asthma can have a flare-up or worsening of asthma symptoms at any time. A sudden or severe flare-up is often called an asthma attack.

Read more on Asthma Australia website

Asthma and thunderstorms - An Asthma Australia site

Thunderstorm asthma is a potentially dangerous mix of pollens, weather conditions and rain that can trigger severe asthma symptoms. People residing in metropolitan, regional and rural areas of Australia can be affected.

Read more on Asthma Australia website

Asthma: can swimming help? - myDr.com.au

Swimming has been recommended in the past for people with asthma but there is no evidence that swimming improves asthma symptoms. In elite swimmers, repeated exposure to chlorine may contribute to the development of asthma.

Read more on myDr website

Buteyko breathing for asthma - myDr.com.au

The Buteyko breathing method focusses on the rhythm and rate of breathing, aiming to slow down breathing rate and regulate rhythm. Breathing through the nose, rather than the mouth, may also help improve asthma symptoms.

Read more on myDr website

Physical training for asthma | Cochrane

Some people with asthma may show less tolerance to exercise due to worsening asthma symptoms when they exercise or other reasons such as deconditioning. This can prevent them playing sports or attempting to keep fit. Physical training programs for people with asthma have been designed to improve physical fitness, muscle coordination and confidence.

Read more on Cochrane (Australasian Centre) website

Check your symptoms Find a health service

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo
Feedback