Asthma & Chest Pain Symptoms

Asthma is a chronic breathing disorder in which the breathing passageways of the lungs become irritated, narrowed and inflamed. The rates of asthma have steadily increased in both adults and children and, as noted by author Mark Jackson in his book, “Allergy, The History of a Modern Malady,” it is the fourth most common cause of death in children. Chest symptoms such as tightness and pain can be frightening and invoke panic attacks in some individuals. Asthma attacks and symptoms can be prevented or reduced with proper diagnosis and treatment.


Wheezing is a common and very noticeable symptom of asthma. It occurs when the airways within the lungs narrow, swell or spasm causing a whistling or squeaking sound which each breath. This is often more obvious in children, when sleeping and after physical activity or stress. As noted by the medical journal “Pediatrics,” wheezing is a symptom of asthma if the wheezing occurs more than a few times and is an ongoing symptom. Temporary wheezing is also a symptom of other respiratory illnesses.


Asthma sufferers also experience coughing symptoms due to bronchospams—a tightening of the muscles around the airways within the lungs due to irritation—lung inflammation and fluid in the lungs, as outlined by the National Institutes of Health. In some asthma sufferers, coughing is the first or only symptom and may go undiagnosed. Asthma-related coughing is usually a dry, hacking cough or a persistent barking cough that can worsen due to a cold or allergies. Chronic coughing can be painful and cause chest muscle tightness and soreness. It may even cause acid reflux because the chest muscles contract involuntarily when coughing.

Chest Tightness

Chest tightness and pressure are among the most distressing symptoms of asthma and can lead to panic and a full-blown asthma attack. Chest discomfort is caused by inflammation in the lungs that constricts or tightens the smooth muscle walls of the bronchioles, the airways within the lungs. Chest tightening may be accompanied by difficulty breathing and a drowning sensation as some bronchioles can fill with mucus due to irritation. Chest tightness and pain can begin or worsen due to stress, anger, cold air, physical activity, cold and allergies.


Breathlessness, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing is a common symptom of asthma. This occurs due to the narrowing and inflammation of the smooth muscle walls of the lungs. Inflammation of the lungs also triggers excess mucus production in the lungs, making it difficult to breathe deeply due to a “drowning” sensation. The chest muscles can become fatigued and sore as they try to inhale and exhale more deeply to get more oxygen in the body.

About this Author

Noreen Kassem is a physician in training and a medical writer with 10 years of experience in writing and editing. Noreen\’s articles have been featured in Women\’s Health, Nutrition News, Check Up and Alive Magazine. She also writes about her other interests: travel, books, fitness, nutrition, cooking and green living.