What is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic (long-term) lung condition. It inflames and narrows the airways that carry air into the lungs. This causes repeated episodes of coughing, wheezing, chest tightness or shortness of breath. The coughing most often occurs at night and first thing in the morning. Asthma symptoms may also occur when you are physically active. Children with asthma sometimes avoid physical activity to prevent coughing or wheezing.


Common Signs and Symptoms of Asthma

  • Frequent coughing spells, which may occur during play, at night, or while laughing or crying
  • A chronic (long-term) cough. It may be the only symptom.
  • Less energy during play or other types of physical activity
  • Rapid breathing (on and off)
  • Complaint of chest tightness or chest “hurting”
  • Whistling sound when breathing in or out – called wheezing
  • See-saw motions in the chest from labored breathing. These motions are called retractions.
  • Shortness of breath, loss of breath
  • Tightened neck and chest muscles
  • Feelings of weakness or tiredness

While these are some symptoms of asthma in children, your child’s doctor should evaluate any illness that complicates your child’s breathing.


In the inflamed airway on the right, the airway is swollen which makes it narrower, muscles tighten, and thick mucus develops. This makes it harder to breathe and causes the coughing, wheezing, and chest tightness.


Sources: CDC, National Institutes of Health-National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, American Lung Association