Asthma: Symptoms of Difficulty Breathing

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Topic Overview

It is important to know the symptoms of difficulty breathing in asthma . If you or your child is having trouble breathing, follow your asthma action plan.

Mild difficulty breathing

You are having mild difficulty breathing if:

  • Your breathing is slightly faster than normal.
  • Your skin color is normal.

Moderate difficulty breathing

Symptoms of moderate difficulty breathing include:

  • Obviously breathing faster than normal.
  • Tiring quickly during talking or eating. You may have to catch your breath during eating. The difficulty during eating may lead to poor nutrition.
  • Using your abdominal (belly) muscles to assist breathing. The abdominal wall collapses inward instead of expanding outward when you breathe in.
  • Having skin color-especially on the face, hands, and feet-that is pale to slightly gray, or lacy purple and pale (mottled). But your tongue, gums, and lips remain pink.

Severe difficulty breathing

Symptoms of severe difficulty breathing include:

  • Breathing very fast. Children usually grunt with each breath. Shortness of breath can interfere with the ability to speak smoothly.
  • Appearing anxious and being unable to eat because it's too hard to breathe.
  • Using the neck, chest, and abdominal muscles to breathe; the skin between, above, and under the ribs collapses inward with each breath. The person also may open his or her nostrils wide when breathing in.
  • Taking longer than usual to breathe out and sometimes having a high-pitched, musical sound when breathing in.
  • Sitting up, leaning forward, or sitting with the nose tilted up as if sniffing the air.
  • Having skin color that is persistently pale, gray, bluish, or mottled, including the tongue, lips, earlobes, and nail beds.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Rohit K Katial, MD - Allergy and Immunology

Current as ofMarch 25, 2017