Do you know in advance when an asthma attack is coming on? Some people feel early asthma warning signs that alert them to the fact their breathing is starting to go out whack, while others don't even think about their asthma until they're struggling to catch their breath.

Recognizing the Signs

Recognizing the asthma warning signs can be an important prevention step, since it allows you to take measures that may actually head off the next attack. Keep in mind that the earlier you treat your asthma, the easier it can usually be to minimize the symptoms and get the relief you need fast.


You know that being exposed to certain triggers can cause you to have an asthma attack. This can be anything from allergens, such as dust, pollen, ragweed and animal dander to a cold or other illness. Things like smoke, exercise, cold air, stress or even crying or laughing can also set off your sensitive airways and cause them to react.

Further, some asthma attacks come on suddenly. You could be exercising or smell a cigarette, and suddenly go from feeling fine to having that tightening of your chest that signals that you're having an asthma attack. In other cases, though, your airways may already be irritated to start. Then you become exposed to a trigger, and it just worsens what's already out of whack.

Asthma Warning Signs

In the second scenario, it's likely there are some asthma warning signs that indicate a problem just waiting to flare. Review the following list of some asthma warning signs you might find.

  • Extreme tiredness
  • Cough
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Trouble performing your normal activities or exercise

Measure Up

If you suspect your asthma is gearing up for a flare, one way to know for sure is to use a peak flow meter. This is a simple-to-use device that you breathe into in order to measure your lung functioning. Your doctor may ask you to do this at home on a regular basis so you can stay on top of any changes, since this can indicate that your asthma may be kicking in. In such a case, you can respond by changing your medication as your doctor directs to head off an impending attack.

Other Options

While using a peak flow meter and staying on top of your symptoms can be very effective in controlling your condition, scientists are continually looking for ways to identify upcoming asthma episodes even earlier. To this end, researchers from Leicester University in England believe that using a mathematical formula to measure exhalation rates can identify the probability of an attack occurring about a month before it occurs. More information on this technique, which was made available in December of 2005, is published on the Bio-Medicine website.

In addition, a study conducted by Kaiser Permanente that was included in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology in March of 2005 found that using a questionnaire to gather patient information can also be effective in predicting future asthma attacks. Researchers looked at several different categories of information that can be tracked to determine how best to follow patient status and to use the data gathered to determine who is most at risk for future asthma and symptoms that warrant medical treatment in the hospital setting.

Hope for the Future

Such research efforts are important on several levels. First, they can help you to manage your asthma and keep it in check. In addition, they also hold much promise for the future of asthma treatment. In fact, the knowledge may someday help you to take preventative measures so far in advance that you'll ultimately be able to avoid experiencing any asthma attacks.





Journal of Allergies and Clinical Immunology

Kaiser Permanente

Kids Health/The Nemours Foundation