Living with a chronic condition like asthma means you may experience flare-ups from time to time. This is especially the case if you encounter specific triggers for your asthma.
Allergens, weather changes, and viral infections can make your symptoms flare up.
Asthma symptoms occur when there’s swelling and constriction in your airways, along with increased mucus.
The most notable asthma symptoms include:
- shortness of breath
- tightness in your chest
Sometimes you may experience additional symptoms that are considered unusual.
While this doesn’t mean the symptoms are rare, having unusual asthma symptoms could mean your treatment is managing your condition well, or an asthma attack is imminent.
Learn more about some unusual asthma symptoms and when to talk to your doctor about how you can manage them.
Sleeping difficulties may arise with asthma that isn’t well managed. You may experience issues with insomnia, for example.
Your airway function naturally decreases during sleep, especially if you have asthma.
If you have severe asthma and your treatment isn’t managing your symptoms well, you may find that traditional asthma symptoms, like coughing, are worse when you’re trying to get some shut-eye.
If it seems that you almost exclusively experience your symptoms at night, you may have a subtype called nocturnal asthma.
You can help decrease your risk for nighttime asthma symptoms by making sure triggers are left outside your sleeping space. This includes:
- dust mites
- animal dander
Also, talk to your doctor about medications that reduce airway inflammation, such as inhaled corticosteroids and leukotriene modifiers.
When you have an asthma flare-up, a wheezy, wet cough isn’t out of the norm.
In fact, coughing is the most prominent symptom in more than
However, having only a chronic, dry cough is considered unusual in traditional asthma. It may instead be a sign of a subtype called cough-variant asthma, when you experience a constant cough without excess mucus. This is also known as an unproductive cough.
If your asthma symptoms are making it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep, then you may experience daytime fatigue as a result.
A chronic cough can also make you feel tired because you’re using energy during coughing spells.
When your body is working overtime to get more oxygen through airways that are inflamed and constricted, you can experience fatigue on a regular basis.
Shortness of breath is a classic asthma symptom. It’s the result of airway constriction during a flare-up.
Taking quick breaths is a more unusual asthma symptom, though. It’s done as a means of getting more oxygen into the lungs.
Rapid breathing may also come in the form of constant sighing or yawning. You may not even realize you’re doing it. While sighing is often due to stress or anxiety, it occasionally can be a sign of asthma.
One misconception about people with asthma is that you can’t or shouldn’t exercise. But asthma that’s well managed shouldn’t place any limitations on exercising.
Exercise-induced asthma is a subtype of asthma when physical activity triggers airway constriction and inflammation. Certain high-intensity exercises that require deep, rapid breathing can also trigger your symptoms, including running.
Aside from the activity itself, other factors can trigger exercise-induced asthma, such as:
- cold and dry air
- air pollution
If you find yourself having to use your rescue inhaler whenever you work out, this likely means your asthma treatment needs to be changed. You may need to see your doctor for a long-term control medication.
Some people with asthma may also experience an itchy face and throat in addition to the more traditional symptoms of wheezing and coughing.
These itchy sensations aren’t related to asthma itself but may be instead attributed to allergies. If allergens trigger your asthma symptoms, then you may have a subtype called allergic asthma.
When you have allergic asthma, you may experience more traditional asthma symptoms. along with:
- itchy skin
- itchiness in your throat
- skin rashes
- runny nose
- postnasal drip
The best way to reduce itchiness and other allergic asthma symptoms is to reduce contact with the substances that trigger your allergies. These may include:
- animal dander
- cigarette smoke
- dust mites
- foods, such as nuts, milk, and seafood
Allergy shots, also called immunotherapy, are frequently an effective tool to manage allergic asthma and the other symptoms caused by environmental allergies.
While asthma symptoms are largely physical, it’s possible to experience effects to your mood, too. Some people with asthma have anxiety along with difficulty concentrating.
Long-term anxiety may also trigger your asthma, creating a cycle that’s hard to break.
Since there’s no cure for asthma, the only way to prevent flare-ups is to proactively manage your condition. This includes taking your medications as directed by your doctor and avoiding your triggers whenever possible.
Sometimes asthma can cause symptoms that go beyond the usual wheezing, coughing, and chest tightness.
It’s especially important to watch out for these unusual asthma symptoms if you have a child or other loved one with asthma. These could be early signs of an impending flare-up or asthma attack.
If you consistently experience unusual asthma symptoms, it may be time to see your doctor to modify your current treatment plan.