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Health Information Library Frequently Asked Questions Trouble breathing: Could it be asthma?

Trouble breathing: Could it be asthma?

Answer Section

Trouble breathing can be a sign of asthma. For many people, the main signs and symptoms of asthma are wheezing, shortness of breath, excess mucus and chest tightness. For others, a chronic cough that comes and goes every now and then may be the main or only symptom of asthma.

Trouble breathing can also be caused by other conditions, including emphysema, respiratory infections, bronchitis, hay fever (allergic rhinitis), acid reflux and heart disease (cardiovascular disease).

Asthma is more likely to be causing your symptoms if any of the following apply:

  • You have episodes of coughing and wheezing along with trouble breathing.
  • Symptoms seem to be triggered by specific things, such as allergy-causing substances (allergens), cold air, exercise, or pollutants such as chemical fumes, engine exhaust or cigarette smoke.
  • You're an adult who had asthma or asthma-like symptoms as a child.
  • You have hay fever or other allergies, or you have family members with allergies or asthma.

See your doctor if you have a cough or other respiratory symptoms that last more than a few weeks. Even if it isn't asthma, it may be something that needs treatment. If you have severe trouble breathing or shortness of breath with chest pain or nausea, seek immediate emergency care.

Last Updated: April 4th, 2020