Asthma: Symptoms of Difficulty Breathing

Overview

When you have asthma, it's important to know the symptoms of trouble breathing. Follow your asthma action plan to know what to do.

When you have trouble breathing, your symptoms may be mild, moderate, or severe.

Symptoms of mild trouble breathing:
  • Breathing slightly faster than normal
  • Normal skin color
Symptoms of moderate trouble breathing:
  • Breathing faster than normal
  • Tiring quickly when you talk or eat. You may have to catch your breath during eating.
  • Using your belly muscles to help you breathe. Your belly wall collapses inward instead of expanding outward when you breathe in.
  • Skin color that is pale to slightly gray, or lacy purple and pale (mottled). But your tongue, gums, and lips remain pink.
Symptoms of severe trouble breathing:
  • Breathing very fast. Children usually grunt with each breath. When you're short of breath, it can make it hard to speak smoothly.
  • Appearing anxious and being unable to eat because it's too hard to breathe.
  • Using your neck, chest, and belly muscles to breathe. The skin between, above, and under the ribs collapses inward with each breath. You also may open your nostrils wide when you breathe in.
  • Taking longer than usual to breathe out and sometimes having a high-pitched, musical sound when you breathe in.
  • Sitting up, leaning forward, or sitting with your nose tilted up as if sniffing the air.
  • Skin color that is persistently pale, gray, bluish, or mottled, including the tongue, lips, earlobes, and nail beds.

Credits

Current as of: August 6, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
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