Wheezing, coughing, trouble breathing – an asthma attack is anything but subtle. But people with asthma aren’t always in the throes of an intense attack. In fact, some of the earliest symptoms are easily overlooked or mistaken for other conditions. Unfortunately, this means many people are unaware they have a problem until they are in the midst of a medical emergency.

Like most health conditions, asthma doesn’t affect everyone the same way. Some asthmatics have all of the hallmark symptoms while others have very few. Symptoms can even vary for the same person from one attack to the next. Being informed about the warning signs you may experience can help you avoid disaster and create a treatment plan that controls your condition.

Early Warning Signs of an Asthma Attack

Asthma attacks may come on suddenly and without much warning. More often, asthma attacks develop slowly over the course of hours or even days. During this time, many patients experience early warning signs that occur before more notable symptoms and can indicate an attack is imminent. But these early signs are usually mild and do not disrupt your daily activities, making them easy to disregard.

Early warning signs of an asthma attack can include:

  • A persistent cough, especially at night
  • Insomnia or trouble sleeping
  • Increased mucus production
  • Itching of the chin or neck (prodromal itching)
  • Runny nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • Sore or scratchy throat
  • Fatigue or general weakness
  • Shortness of breath, especially when exercising
  • Posture changes, including raised shoulders or notable slouching

If you experience any of these warning signs (whether separately or in combination), take the medications listed in your asthma action plan immediately and monitor your symptoms for improvement. If symptoms do not improve, seek medical attention.

Early Signs of Asthma

The signs above can indicate an oncoming asthma attack, but what if you don’t know you have asthma? Many of the early warning signs can be mistaken for a cold, seasonal allergies, or poor fitness, especially if you’ve never experienced an attack.

Asthma is usually diagnosed in childhood, but it can occur at any age. Symptoms may be intermittent (they come and go) or persistent (occur most of the time).

You or your child may have undiagnosed asthma if you experience the following:

  • Frequent upper respiratory infections that persist longer than average, even with treatment
  • Wheezing during viral illnesses
  • Seasonal coughs that last for several weeks or longer
  • Chest tightness or trouble breathing during exercise
  • A notable decrease in physical fitness

Diagnosing asthma is a complex process that requires a visit to your healthcare provider. Once asthma is diagnosed, your doctor can help you develop an asthma action plan to control your symptoms and prevent future attacks. This usually includes maintenance medications like inhaled corticosteroids as well as rescue medications to use only during an attack.

If you have asthma, taking your medications as prescribed can mean the difference between life or death. Our respiratory supply program can help you take control of your asthma by delivering the medications and supplies you need right to your door. Contact us today to learn more!