Asthma: Causes and Symptoms

asthma, causes, symptoms, treatments

If you regularly experience shortness of breath or you listen to a whistling or wheezy sound in your chest when you breathe, you might have asthma.

What is asthma?

Asthma is a long-lasting disorder that affects your airways. Your airways are tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs. If you have asthma, the inside walls of your airways become sore and swollen. That makes them extremely delicate, and they may react strongly to things that you are allergic to or find irritating. When your airways respond, they get narrower, and your lungs get less air. This can cause wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and trouble in breathing, particularly early in the morning or at night. When your asthma symptoms become severe than usual, it’s called an asthma attack. Asthma can’t be treated, but its symptoms can be controlled.

There are two kinds of asthma: allergic, caused by contact to an allergen and nonallergic, caused by stress, exercise, illnesses such as a cold or the flu, or exposure to extreme weather, irritants in the air or some medicines.


People get asthma because of contact with the atmosphere in which they live and the genes they inherit. Contact with several irritants and substances that cause allergies (allergens) can generate signs and symptoms of asthma. It’s causes are different from individual to individual and can include:

  • Airborne elements such as pollen, dust mites, pet dander or particles of cockroach waste
  • Respiratory infections such as the common cold
  • Physical activity
  • Cold air
  • Air pollutants and irritants such as smoke
  • Certain medicines
  • Strong emotions and stress
  • Additives added to some forms of foods and drinks, such as dried fruit, processed potatoes, beer, and wine
  • Weather conditions such as cold air or very dry, wet or breezy climate
  • Family history is a risk factor for asthma as many asthma cases are hereditary.
Signs and symptoms

People with asthma feel symptoms when the airways tighten, inflame, or fill with mucus. Asthma symptoms differ from person to person. You may have irregular asthma attacks, have symptoms only at specific times such as while exercising or have symptoms all the time.

Common symptoms are:
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness or pain
  • Difficulty in sleeping caused by shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing
  • A whistling or wheezing sound when breathing out
  • Coughing or wheezing attacks that are worsened by an infection, such as cold or flu
Signs that your asthma is probably worsening are:
  • Asthma signs and symptoms that are more frequent
  • Increasing difficulty breathing (air hunger)
  • The need to use a quick-relief inhaler more often

Still, not each person with asthma has the similar symptoms in the same way. You may not have all of these symptoms, or you may have various symptoms at various times. Moreover, your symptoms may also differ from one asthma attack to the next, being minor during one and serious during another.

Symptoms of an asthma attack:
  • Acute wheezing while breathing both in and out
  • Coughing that won’t stop
  • Very fast breathing
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Tightened neck and chest muscles, known as retractions
  • Difficulty talking
  • Feelings of anxiety or panic
  • Pale, sweaty face

Furthermore, for some people, symptoms flare up in particular situations, such as:

  • Exercise-induced, that may be worse when the air is cold and dry
  • Occupational, caused by workplace irritants such as chemical fumes, gases, or dust
  • Allergy-induced, caused by aerial substances, such as pollen, mold spores, cockroach waste or pet dander

Disclaimer: All material on is provided for informational purposes only and should not be taken as a substitute for professional medical or health advice. Always seek the advice of your physician for any questions regarding your symptoms or medical condition and before taking any home remedies or supplements.

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