Dr.Kamini Silvarajan MD/AAAM

Editorial Board: Dr.Kamini Silvarajan MD/AAAM

Asthma Symptoms

Bronchiolitis - Inflammation of the bronchioles

Symptoms are what the patient complains of.

Signs are what the doctor detects or measures.

Before further reading, it is important to know that none of the following signs and symptoms is specific to bronchial asthma. These signs and symptoms are caused by multiple other lung diseases.

Examples of diseases that cause localized airway obstruction:

-Lung cancer

-Aspiration of a foreign body

-Paralysis of a vocal cord

Examples of Diseases that cause generalized airway obstruction:


-Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)


-Cystic fibrosis

Symptoms of bronchial asthma:

-Shortness of breath Patient is unable to breathe normally

-Chest tightness Patient feels that he has no room for air in his lungs

-Cough Strangely, Dry cough can be the only presenting symptom of an asthma attack, in this case it is called Cough variant asthma

-Wheezes it is a whistling-like sound produced by the chest due to partial narrowing of the respiratory airways caused by bronchoconstriction and increased mucus secretion. It is the most commonly heard sound in asthma attacks

Remember Wheezing can be heard in other lung diseases as well, it is not exclusive to asthma attacks.

The following may help in the diagnosis of asthma:

-Symptoms are intermittent

-Symptoms are worse at night or Nocturnal

-Symptoms are variable

-Symptoms are provoked by asthma triggers

Remember Asthma triggers are classified into Extrinsic as dust mites, pollen, animal dander ,smoking and Intrinsic as laughing, crying, fear, Psychological factors and certain Drugs as NSAIDs, Ibuprofen

Please refer to my 1st article for more information on asthma triggers.

Signs of bronchial asthma :

As bronchial asthma is due to allergy , it may be accompanied by other allergic diseases such as Sinusitis (Inflammation of the mucus membrane that lines the paranasal sinuses) , Rhinitis ( Inflammation of the nasal mucosa), Dermatitis ( any type of skin allergy) . 

So the asthmatic patient may also complain from running nose , pain in the air sinuses ( resembles headache) or any type of skin allergy.

The obstruction of the airways caused by asthma might lead to Hyperinflation of the lungs as air entering the lungs is trapped inside. this might lead to what is known as Pigeon chest (hyperinflation of the lung with hunched shoulders)

Pigeon chest

Rhonchi or Rhonchal Fremitus this is a coarse rattling snoring like sound. It is caused by partial obstruction of the airway due to bronchoconstriction and increased mucus secretion. This sound is heard by the doctor on auscultation of the chest.

Remember Rhonchi can be heard in patients with COPD as well, it isn’t exclusive to asthma

Rales or Crepitations are different from rhonchi , they sound like opening a velcro fastener or like the sound of shisha in the Arabic world. This sound isn’t commonly heard on auscultation of an asthmatic chest. It is only heard when there is a secondary infection on top of asthma – By Dr.Karim