Tests and diagnosis (1)
- Reactive airway disease: Is it asthma?
- Asthma and acid reflux: Are they linked?
Treatments and drugs (2)
- LABAs for asthma — Should I stop taking them?
- Albuterol side effects: What's normal?
Lifestyle and home remedies (3)
- Ozone air purifiers: Can they improve asthma symptoms?
- Asthma diet: Does what you eat make a difference?
- Asthma: Why are symptoms worse during my period?
- Hygiene hypothesis: Early germ exposure prevents asthma?
Trouble breathing: Could it be asthma?
Is trouble breathing a sign of asthma?
Trouble breathing that lasts more than a few weeks can be a sign of asthma. For many people, the main signs and symptoms of asthma are wheezing, shortness of breath, excess mucus and chest tightness. For others, chronic cough that comes and goes periodically may be the main or only symptom of asthma.
Keep in mind, these symptoms can be caused by a number of conditions. Other causes of trouble breathing include respiratory infections, bronchitis, hay fever (allergic rhinitis), certain medications, acid reflux and heart disease (cardiovascular disease).
The following factors increase the likelihood that asthma may be causing your symptoms:
- You have periodic bouts of coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath that last more than a few weeks.
- Symptoms seem to be caused by specific triggers, such as allergy-causing substances (allergens), cold air, exercise, or pollutants such as chemical fumes, engine exhaust or cigarette smoke.
- You're an adult who had asthma or asthma-like symptoms as a child.
- You have hay fever or other allergies, or you have family members with allergies or asthma.
See your doctor if you have a cough or other respiratory symptoms that last more than a few weeks. Even if it isn't asthma, it may be something that needs treatment. If you have severe trouble breathing or shortness of breath accompanied by chest pain or nausea, seek immediate emergency care.Next question
Reactive airway disease: Is it asthma?
- Silvestri RC, et al. Evaluation of subacute and chronic cough in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed March 12, 2011.
- Chung KF, et al. Cough. In: Mason RJ. Murray & Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2010. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/page.do?eid=4-u1.0-B978-1-4160-4710-0..00029-8--s0095&isbn=978-1-4160-4710-0&type=bookPage§ionEid=4-u1.0-B978-1-4160-4710-0..00029-8--s0095&uniqId=236974221-3#4-u1.0-B978-1-4160-4710-0..00029-8--s0095. Accessed March 3, 2011.
- Diagnosis and management of cough: Executive summary ACCP evidence-based clinical practice guidelines. Northbrook, Ill.: American College of Chest Physicians. http://chestjournal.chestpubs.org/content/129/1_suppl/1S.full.pdf+html. Accessed March 14, 2011.
- Schwartzstein RM, et al. Patient information: Shortness of breath. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed March 15, 2011.