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How Does Your Asthma Communicate With YOU?

A neat thing about asthma is that it talks. Another neat thing is that it talks to each of us in different ways. In this way, we may each experience it in unique ways. One example of this is how asthma talks just prior to asthma attacks.

When I say talking, what I’m referring to are symptoms. Often, in the minutes, and sometimes hours, before asthma attacks, changes occur inside our bodies. These changes cause us to feel certain symptoms. So, symptoms experienced prior to asthma attacks are often referred to as “Early Warning Symptoms of Asthma.”

What are some common early warning symptoms?


Colds are the most common asthma trigger. Early on when you’re getting a cold you may start to cough. You may have a runny nose. You may experience a stuffy nose. You may observe sputum color changes. You may develop a headache. You may feel anxious. You may feel chest tightness.

These are all early warning symptoms. Personally, this is what I experience early on when I’m developing a cold. And, I am well aware that colds almost always lead to asthma trouble. So, part of my asthma action plan is to call my doctor when I experience these early warning symptoms. This is how I stave off a full-blown cold-related asthma attack.


Allergens are another common asthma trigger for me. Sometimes, when I’m exposed to them I start to sneeze. Let’s say I’m cleaning a closet in my basement. Sneezing here may just be the earliest warning symptom I experience. If I’m paying attention I can get away from the trigger. I can quit cleaning. If I get away I may prevent all the subsequent early warning symptoms plus the asthma attack.

But, often in my past, I’ve not paid attention. Then I develop a stuffy nose.  I develop an itchy chin. Often I feel anxiety. Like, I feel panicky. I rush to get things done and get sloppy. Sometimes, in my haste, I break things. I often feel chest tightness. I have learned, the hard way I have to say, that when I experience these things that I must stop what I am doing. And, yes, this does get frustrating sometimes (all the time when it happens).

A way of asthma to communicate with you

What to make of this?

During an asthma attack, changes are occurring inside our bodies. For instance, our lungs are spasming. They are producing excessive amounts of mucus. They are making us feel short of breath. They are making us feel uncomfortable. We need to take swift actions to end the attack.

But, most of us experience early warning symptoms prior to these full-fledged attacks. In this way, if we can learn our own warning symptoms, if we can learn how our own bodies communicate, we can learn to take swift actions to stave off a full-blown attack. In this way, we can prevent asthma just by learning how our own individual body’s communicate.

Some of these early warning symptoms are the same from one asthmatic to another, such as chest tightness. Others are unique to a particular individual, such as itchy chin and neck for me.

So, how does your body talk? What are some early warning symptoms you’ve experienced? Share with us in the comments below. I think it will be neat to learn what symptoms are unique (or not so unique) within this community.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • FeelingShy
    9 months ago

    I have an odd one, I think: My back starts to hurt across the bottom of my rib cage…sometimes alot. If don’t use my inhaler at that point, it spreads up and around until it is more traditional chest tightness/pain.

    Also, sleeplessness.

  • John Bottrell, RRT moderator author
    9 months ago

    A perfect example of how we it affects us all in unique ways. Thanks for sharing. John. Site Moderator.

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    9 months ago

    Hi FeelingShy and thanks for your post and sharing your experiences related to how your asthma communicates with you. We appreciate your input. Leon (site moderator)

  • TracyLee
    9 months ago

    I can go from breathing just fine to coughing up buckets of mucus after just a few breaths of an irritant. (Most recent example, I forgot to hold my breath when I tore off a paper towel too fast without keeping my arm extended.) And yet, my PFT rates my asthma as mild.

    Am I ignoring early warning signs or do I not have them? I don’t know.

  • John Bottrell, RRT moderator author
    9 months ago

    That’s a great question. I wish there was an easy answer for you. Every person experiences this disease differently. Have you discussed this with your doctor? John. Site Moderator.

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