Asthma UK community forum

what is an asthma attack?

Hi again. Sorry for my ignorance, but what is an asthma attack? People say it's when you can't breathe properly, which I understand, but they often talk of your chest being tight. Is it like when you have a chest infection, and all the mucus is stopping you breathing properly, so you sound like a coffee machine? Because that's what I have when I get chest infections, and I sound horrible. My chest felt heavy last time, and I could feel that my nemk was funny, like it sounded funny, straining itself to work properly. If you know what I mean. My salamol didn't help either, when I used it, I was still wheazing and sounding like a coffee machine.

4 Replies

Hi Samantha , chest infections and asthma are two different things with different causes , but they can be linked .

I think my asthma is fairly typical so I will describe what happens when I have an attack .

The first thing I notice is that I am short of breath and start puffing when I shouldn't . This is often accompanied by an audible wheeze and can then escalate into real difficulty in breathing . At this point it is usual to start coughing up phlegm and continue doing so after the attack is over . This coughing can be severe to the point of choking . During an attack your lung capacity is reduced and this will show if you test your peak flow . Personly I have not experienced what I would call a tightening of the chest , but I guess different people have different ways of describing things .

Hope this helps .


Hi, I find that to me, attacks vary . I am known to have ongoing symptoms which lead to a big attack, which if I feel tight chested/short of breath and coughy then I’ll make a soon appt with gp. This is what I usually go by if Symptoms start but aren’t affecting day to day life as bad as an attack. If you’re worried at all about what’s happening /taking a lot of blue puffs then phone for medical help / at least phone nhs 111 who , if need be will send you an ambulance.


I am not worried, just new to everything and want to know about it that's all. I'm asking a lot about bronchiectasis too, as they think I have that too.


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