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unusual asthma symptoms

Not Your Usual Asthma Symptoms

When we think of asthma symptoms the following usually comes to mind- wheezing, chest tightness and shortness of breath. Those are the three most common asthma symptoms. When inflammation happens inside of our lungs, there are three main things that happen and a good way to remember is to use the SET acronym- Swelling, Excess mucus, and Tightness.

The lower airways begin to swell from the inflammation, create excess mucus and tighten which often times (but not always!) causes the wheezing sound you hear.

While these are very common asthma symptoms, not all asthma is created equal. Our lungs are all different. Just as we have different triggers and some of us have allergies and some do not; we react and our bodies respond to an asthma flare in different ways.

There are some unusual asthma symptoms you may have and may not even realize it. Or maybe you do and others around you might not. If you have a child with asthma keep an eye out for these potential symptoms as they might be a warning sign of a flare up if they are unable to tell you what is going on.

Yawning or Lots of Sighing

Excess yawning or sighing isn’t just a symptom of being tired. Asthmatics and people with respiratory diseases often times will do this subconsciously as a way to get more oxygen into the body and on the flip side more carbon dioxide out. And it also feels really good. As a matter of fact I’m yawning as I’m typing this right now and I bet you are too!

Chronic Dry Cough

This is a sign of cough variant asthma where the main symptom is a dry, non productive cough. For some people this is their only asthma symptom. This particular type of asthma is often times initially overlooked and can take time to be officially diagnosed. A person with this type of asthma responds well to bronchodilators and traditional asthma medications.

Fast Breathing/hyperventilation

Asthmatics tend to have faster than normal breathing when having a flare up even in the early stages before the symptoms are obvious. It’s your body’s way of getting more oxygen in and ventilating better.


Feeling tired more often than usual isn’t as uncommon as one might think when it comes to asthma. Your body is working in overdrive to keep the body oxygenated when the lungs are inflamed. So even though you can’t necessarily feel it (although you might be able to) you CAN feel the effects it is having on your body as a whole, making you feel utterly exhausted. No matter how much sleep you get.

Difficulty Sleeping

On the flip side, asthmatics sometimes can have trouble sleeping. Nocturnal asthma symptoms can play up and wake you up or prevent you from getting those hours of shut-eye you need to function on a daily basis.

Anxiety/difficulty concentrating

Feeling anxious can come from lack of oxygen as well as not being able to focus and concentrate. Not being able to breathe makes us feel anxious as well so it is a vicious cycle.

Itchy Chin

Some people experience an itchy chin and throat before an asthma flare-up. This is generally associated with allergic asthma but not always.

Do you experience any unusual asthma symptoms? Like I have said before, asthma is not a one size fits all disease and we all experience different signs & symptoms, even unusual ones.


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
    1 year ago

    Daniele, absolutely. That is common for me. Most of the time it isn’t so much that I can’t breathe as that I am breathing alot less.

  • Daniele
    1 year ago

    I ended up on here because I googled yawning and sighing excessively when my asthma pops up. Does anyone have this horrible feeling that the air only enters the upper part of your lungs, which makes you feel out of oxygen, like your chest is compressed. So you have to force yawns and sighs to try and get the air to hit the bottom of your lungs, and when it does it offers great relief (which disappears soon after so you have to do it over and over again). Anyone relate?

  • lauren.tucker moderator
    1 year ago

    Daniele, I understand how you are feeling. It can be frustrating to keep yawning and trying to ‘catch your breath’. Have you talked to your Dr about this? There may be a treatment to help with this kind of breathing. I’ll reach out to our experts too to see if they have any information for you. Hopefully, others will chime in too. Thanks so much for joining our site and I hope you find it helpful. Best, Lauren ( Team)

  • CourtneyC
    2 years ago

    When I was a child and my asthma was not yet well controlled, I got the “itchy throat” symptom all the time. In fact, that’s when my mom knew I needed to use my nebulizer–when she saw my scratching my throat. Also, I’ve had many doctors and nurses believe that because I’m not wheezing, I must not be having an asthma attack. I rarely wheeze! And yet my asthma is severe enough that I’ve had to be on multiple control medications at a time. It really frustrates me how even some medical professionals can be so ill-educated when it comes to asthma.

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    2 years ago

    Hi (again) CourtneyC and we hear you. In view of your comments about not always wheezing when you’re having difficulty, I thought you might find it reassuring to look over this material on that very topic:
    Warm regards,
    Leon (site moderator)

  • JanetH
    2 years ago

    Just this past week, I hyperventilated while on a walk during my break at work. I hadn’t pre-medicated with a rescue inhaler, because I haven’t needed to prior to mild exercise for a long time. Thankfully I had my inhaler with me and used it, but the air was cold, and it wasn’t helping much, so I was starting to hyperventilate, which was scary. Luckily, I wasn’t too far away from my workplace. It took awhile to feel “over” that, and yes, I did contact my allergist within a day or so after that experience. We’re going to try a new steroid inhaler, and I may have a sinus infection. He’s not sure on the latter because I’m largely asymptomatic except for swollen nasal turbinates and (trigger warning: grossness to come) some “stringy white mucus.” So, I’m to keep him apprised of how I’m doing over the next week or two. I’m on antibiotics a fair amount, and allergic to a few classes of them,so I understand his hesitation.

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    2 years ago

    Hi Janet H and thanks for sharing your experience with us. We wish you luck and hope you’ll check back and let us know how you’re doing.
    Leon (site moderator)

  • JanetH
    2 years ago

    Thanks for this information. I’m keeping this.

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    2 years ago

    It’s our pleasure, JanetH.
    Glad that you found this to be so helpful for you.
    All the best,
    Leon (site moderator)

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