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Watch For These Less Common Symptoms of Asthma

March 10, 2023

Coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness are common symptoms associated with asthma. But did you know that symptoms can show up in different ways for different people?

If you feel any of these symptoms, especially the ones below, consider seeing an allergist who can help understand if this is from asthma and discuss unique treatment options.

Less apparent asthma symptoms

Poor sleep

Most of us have encountered a sleepless night at some point. But symptoms of asthma can occur at night, disrupting sleep. When we don’t get enough sleep, either because we don’t sleep long enough or because we don’t get good sleep, it affects both how we feel and how we function.

Short-term effects can include drowsiness, sleepiness, anger, less alertness, poor motor skills, and trouble paying attention.

If you don’t get enough sleep for a long time, it can change how your body works. Research from the NIH shows that not getting enough sleep is linked to being overweight or obese.

Everyone, even kids, seems to be affected in the same way. People who don’t get enough sleep also have changes in their metabolism that are similar to those seen in obese people.

Depression, anxiety, and mental distress have been linked to not getting enough sleep on a regular basis. For example, one study found that people who only slept 4.5 hours per night were more stressed, sad, angry, and mentally tired than people who slept longer.

Daytime fatigue

Young woman with pink shirt, jeans and tennis shoes, laying down on her belly on a gray couch showing signs of fatigue
A lack of restful, restorative sleep can lead to daytime fatigue. Also not breathing well from asthma or dealing with allergies can make you tired.

It’s important to know what is causing you to be tired during the day, because this symptom could be the result of a variety of medical conditions, like asthma, or lifestyle factors, like alcohol usage, unhealthy eating habits, lack of physical activity, and even stress.

Children, those who work shifts, those in the medical field, and long-distance drivers are all at increased risk due to drowsiness.

Tiredness may have serious consequences for your health and well-being. The effects of sleepiness throughout the day might include:

  • Increased potential for workplace accidents and car crashes.
  • Decline in quality of life as a result of decreased productivity at work or in the classroom.
  • A child’s growth may be affected by excessive daytime drowsiness.
  • Daytime sleepiness increases fall risk in the elderly.
  • It may be difficult to maintain a stable emotional state.
  • Sleepiness may cause unnecessary relationship and social issues.

Excessive yawning

Little boy of around 5 years of age yawning while trying to do homework on a dining room table
If you find yourself sighing or yawning more than usual, this could be a sign of asthma.

Even though we don’t fully understand why we yawn, it seems that it is not only a sign that we are tired, but also a much more general sign that something is changing in the body.

Studies have shown that we yawn when we are tired, when we are waking up, and when our level of alertness is changing in other ways.

You are right to think that yawns can spread. People can yawn when they see, hear, or think about yawning, but no one really knows why it is contagious.

People often think that excessive yawning is a sign of being tired or bored, but it could also be a sign of a health problem.

Avoidance of sports/activities or reduced exercise stamina

Little girl in a red soccer uniform tying her tennis shoe next to a soccer ball
If you or your kid is finding it hard to get motivated to exercise or be active, this could be a sign of asthma.

Some kids (and adults) may not feel like being active if they have trouble breathing due to asthma, especially if it is provoked by exercise.

This would cause them to want to avoid their favorite exercise. This could be a sign of exercise-induced asthma.

This is when the airways get smaller or squeezed when you work out hard. It makes you short of breath, wheeze, cough, and have other symptoms when you exercise or after.

When you work out, you take more breaths through your mouth, and the air you take in is still cold and dry. When you breathe in cold, dry air, the muscles around your airways tighten if you have asthma (becoming narrow).

If you have asthma, warming up for 5 to 10 minutes before exercise can help keep asthma symptoms from happening during exercise. During a warm-up exercise, start walking slowly and gradually speed up or do more over the course of 3–5 minutes. With the help of inhalers and other medicines, exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB) attacks can be stopped, and the airways can be opened.

Asthma caused by exercise gets worse when:

  • The air is dry and cold.
  • There is a lot of pollen.
  • The air quality is bad because there is a lot of pollution.
  • You are getting better from a cold or a lung illness.
  • You’ve breathed in smoke, chemicals, or odors from paint or cleaning supplies.

Medically Reviewed By: Regan Pyle, DO
Reviewed on: Feb. 1, 2023

Our team of writers, editors, and medical experts goes over each article carefully to make sure the information is correct and that only reliable sources are used.

We regularly check to see if the info in this article matches up with the latest scientific research and expert advice so that we can give you the most up-to-date information. See list of trusted resources here.

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