A woman wearing a white and black striped shirt, coughing.
Asthma can be felt in the lungs, throat, nose, and chest, and it can cause total-body symptoms too.

What Does Asthma Feel Like?

Asthma is a chronic lung disease that makes it difficult to breathe. People of all ages can develop asthma, including children. The frequency and severity of an asthma attack can vary, and having asthma may impact everyone’s life differently. If you are not diagnosed with asthma but you feel you may have symptoms, you may wonder: What does asthma feel like?

How Does it Feel to Have Asthma?

Asthma attacks may develop differently. Not all people experience the same exact symptoms or severity. People may describe how they feel having an asthma attack in various ways.

But in general, the sensation of having an asthma attack has some similarities and may include the following:

Lungs

The physical sensation of an asthma attack is mostly felt in the lungs. Someone may feel like they are suffocating. It’s common to describe the feeling of narrowing of the airways like breathing through a small straw. Individuals having an asthma attack often have wheezing sounds in the lungs from the constriction.

Chest

Although the sensation may vary, it is typical for someone to have a tight feeling in their chest. It may feel like a band around their chest or as if someone is sitting on their chest. In some cases, a person may also experience chest pain.

Throat

When someone is having an asthma attack, their throat may feel as if it is closing. It is actually the lungs that develop constriction or narrowing. But it can feel like the throat is constricting too. Some people also feel a sensation of increased mucus in their throat.

Nose

An asthma attack may not be felt directly in the nose like a cold is. But the constriction of the airways may make it feel like you cannot get enough air in through the nose.

Total Body

If you have asthma, you may also feel other sensations in your body. For example, some people feel tired or worn out when they have an asthma attack. You may also feel the tension in your muscles from working hard to breathe. It’s also not uncommon to feel dizzy or lightheaded.

Emotional Effects of Asthma

Asthma can lead to several different emotions. There is no right or wrong way to feel about having asthma. The emotional impact may depend on several factors, such as the severity of symptoms, level of support, and how much asthma interferes with everyday activities.

Some common emotions people with asthma may have include:

  • Anxiety. An asthma attack can be frightening. In some cases, a past attack may have led to a hospitalization, which can increase fears. Not knowing what can trigger an attack may also lead to anxiety.
  • Anger. Some people may be angry that they have to deal with a chronic illness. Their anger may be misdirected at anyone, such as a family member or medical professional. Anger may come from feeling sick, limiting activities, or not knowing how to control flare-ups.
  • Guilt. Some people may feel guilty about having asthma attacks. They may feel their symptoms are interfering with other peoples’ lives. In some instances, frequent attacks may cause increased medical visits and medications, which can become costly.
  • Confusion. Not everyone understands what triggers their asthma. Random asthma attacks that do not appear to have a specific trigger may cause confusion on how to stop flare-ups.
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Sometimes people with asthma may feel a combination of emotions. These emotions are normal and understandable. But similar to physical issues related to asthma, it is also important to deal with the emotional aspects as well.

Asthma Support Groups

Some people with asthma may seek support to cope with the condition. Support groups can provide education and help in dealing with the disease. Although everyone may have a different experience with asthma, it is often helpful to talk with other people that have the same condition.

Asthma support groups may be found through local hospitals and asthma education programs. In addition, the organizations below also provide resource information on finding support groups for asthma:

What Can You Do to Cope With Asthma?

When an asthma attack develops, it is essential to follow an asthma action plan to prevent symptoms from becoming severe. It is also critical to try to prevent asthma attacks. If you have asthma, there are several ways to cope, including:

  • Learning to identify triggers to reduce exposure
  • Following your asthma treatment plan
  • Recognizing signs of an asthma flare-up early to prevent complications
  • Taking asthma medications as prescribed by your healthcare provider
  • Making healthy lifestyle choices, such as not smoking, getting regular exercise, and managing stress
  • Talking with someone if you are having trouble dealing with emotions due to asthma