Symptoms of asthma

Wondering what the symptoms of asthma are?

What are the most common asthma symptoms?

The most common symptoms of asthma are:

  • coughing
  • wheezing (a whistling sound when you breathe)
  • breathlessness
  • chest tightness

Experiencing one or more of these symptoms could mean you have asthma. It’s more likely to be asthma if your symptoms keep coming back, are worse at night, or happen when you react to a trigger – such as exercise, weather or an allergy.

Could it be asthma

If you’re experiencing symptoms of asthma, book an appointment with your GP as soon as possible. They’ll be able to work out whether it’s asthma or something else, such as a chest infection, gastric reflux, or a bad cold.

If you think your child might have asthma, we have more information on spotting the symptoms in children.


A cough that keeps coming back is a symptom of asthma. It’s more likely to be asthma if your cough is accompanied by other asthma symptoms, like wheezing, breathlessness or chest tightness.

Not everyone with asthma coughs. If you do cough it’s usually dry, or someone with uncontrolled asthma might have thick clear mucus when they cough. The right treatment can mean you’re cough-free most of the time.


Wheezing is a high-pitched whistling noise coming from your airways, mostly when you breathe out.

Some people feel their asthma isn’t taken seriously because they don’t wheeze. You may still have asthma even if you haven't noticed a whistling sound - so don’t put off seeing your GP.


Finding it hard to breathe, or getting breathless, is another common asthma symptom. Some people with asthma notice this gets worse when they do exercise, and it can put them off staying active.

It’s normal for most people to get a bit out of breath with exercise, but if you’re noticing it’s bringing on asthma symptoms, see your GP or asthma nurse. The good news is that if asthma is well controlled most people can exercise without any problems.

Some people may find it difficult to take a deep breath in, or a long breath out. One of the symptoms of an asthma attack is that it’s very hard to breathe. People who are very breathless might struggle to talk, eat or sleep.

Chest tightness

Chest tightness is often described as having a heavy weight on the chest or feeling like a band is tightening around your chest.

It may also feel like a dull ache, or a sharp stabbing pain in the chest. It can make it difficult to take a deep breath in.

Explaining your symptoms to your GP

It’s a good idea to start a diary of your symptoms before speaking to your GP. Taking note of when symptoms flare-up may help you to understand your triggers. This diary will then help your GP to understand and properly assess your condition. You could also try filming your symptoms if they are hard to describe.

There are several different tests for asthma - so your GP won’t be able to diagnose you straightaway. Our advice on diagnosing asthma explains this process in more detail.

Managing asthma symptoms

If you are diagnosed with asthma, for most people the right treatment will mean you can live a normal, active life. Whilst there is no cure for asthma, taking your medicines as prescribed will usually mean you can live with little to no symptoms.

If you find your symptoms are getting worse, speak to your GP or asthma nurse as soon as you can.

Get support

Call our Helpline for support with your condition. Get advice on your medicines, symptoms or travelling with a lung condition, or just call us to say hello.

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