Warning Signs Of Asthma

Asthma is a health condition that afflicts the lungs, causing difficulty with breathing. It is usually not a chronic condition, normally afflicting people periodically in what are called asthma attacks. Persons who have the symptoms discussed below on a very frequent or severe basis, probably have a more serious respiratory condition, such as COPD.

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Like some other health conditions, asthma is not a ‘uniform’ disease, meaning it affects different people in different ways. The severity of the symptoms, their frequency and the causes vary from person to person. It is important for you to track and be aware of things that trigger you to have asthma symptoms. Common causes are allergies, colds and flu, exercise, exposure to very cold or dry weather and even stress and anxiety. Once you know your triggers, you should eliminate and reduce them as much as possible. It is also important for you to track the frequency of asthma attacks, as increasing frequency usually means something is wrong and you should consult your doctor.

Asthma symptoms not only vary between individuals, they can also be different at different times for the same person. The types and severity of these symptoms are discussed below, as well as recommended appropriate action.


“Green Zone” – Good

Being in the Green Zone, means your asthma is well-controlled. You know you are in the green if all the following are true:

• No difficulty in breathing
• No cough or wheeze
• No chest tightness or pain
• Can sleep through the night
• No impairment in your normal activities

If you need to exercise or take on any activity that you know can be an asthma trigger, you may have to take your prescribed asthma medicine before such activity to prevent asthma symptoms before you begin (sometimes referred to as “pre-treatment”). If your doctor prescribed you to take asthma medicine on a regular on-going basis, do not skip doses just because you are in the green zone – taking the prescribed medication regimen will help to keep you in the good zone.

“Yellow Zone” – Caution

You are in the Yellow Zone if you have early warning signs that often happen just before or at the very beginning of an asthma attack. These symptoms are the earliest signs that your asthma condition is worsening. It should be noted that these early asthma attack symptoms are usually not severe enough to stop you from going about your daily activities. However, you should know and be aware of these signs, so you can stop an asthma attack or prevent one from getting worse.

Early warning signs of an asthma attack may include:

• Coughing frequently, especially at night or with moderate activity
• Your peak flow meter readings show impaired lung capacity
• Losing your breath easily or shortness of breath, even without any strenuous activity
• You feel very tired or weak with just moderate activity or less
• Wheezing during or after any kind of physical activity
• Feeling tired, easily upset, grouchy, or moody
• Chronic symptoms of a cold, flu or allergies such as sneezing, runny nose, cough, nasal congestion, sore throat, and headache
• You have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep

The severity of an asthma attack can escalate rapidly, so it’s important to treat these symptoms immediately once you recognize them. Take your prescribed asthma medication as directed as soon as possible, don’t wait for the symptoms to just go away on their own.

“Red Zone” – Danger

The following symptoms indicate you are in the Red – Danger Zone, and you need to take your quick-relief asthma medication right away. If after taking the medication, your breathing does not improve quickly, get medical emergency help. Severe asthma attacks can be life-threatening.

Symptoms of a serious or dangerous asthma attack include:

• Asthma symptoms are getting worse quickly
• Your asthma quick-relief medicines are not helping
• Ongoing or increasing chest tightness or pain
• Chronic and severe shortness of breath
• Your breathing is faster or slower than normal
• Breathing may be hard or shallow
• You have trouble talking or walking due to shortness of breath
• Your ribs or stomach are noticeably moving in and out deeply and rapidly
• You have an expanded chest that does not deflate when you exhale
• Shoulders are hunched over
• Abnormal coloration of and around the tongue, lips, around the eyes, fingertips or nails – the color appears grayish or whitish on darker skin tones and bluish on lighter skin tones

Remember, Red/Danger Zone symptoms are a medical emergency. Take your quick-relief asthma medication right away as directed by your doctor and then get immediate medical attention. Call 911 or go directly to the emergency room. Follow up with your provider within two days of an emergency department visit or hospital stay.

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