Symptoms of Asthma Hyperventilation

Young woman doing inhalation
A young woman is using an inhaler. (Image: RuslanGuzov/iStock/Getty Images)

When a person hyperventilates, it means that he is breathing very rapidly. This interferes with the body's ability to rid itself of carbon dioxide, which is normally expelled when exhaling. As the carbon dioxide level builds up, the symptoms of hyperventilation appear. Hyperventilation can occur due to stress or anxiety, or it can occur alongside a lung disease such as asthma. It is important to know the symptoms of asthma hyperventilation because in severe cases, it can lead to a medical emergency.

Rapid Breathing and Wheezing

The fear of having an asthma attack can cause anxiety and panic attacks. In turn, feeling anxious can exacerbate the symptoms of asthma, which for some patients results in hyperventilation, states the National Center for Biotechnology Information. In some cases, breathing deeply into a paper bag followed by the use of an inhale can resolve asthma-related hyperventilation symptoms such as deep rapid breathing and wheezing. However, to avoid over medicating, it is important to educate patients about the effects of stress and how to recognize the difference between an asthma attack versus hyperventilation from anxiety.

Numbness and Tingling

Since asthma makes it difficult to take deep breaths, an asthmatic may not always be able to recognize that their breathing has quickened. However, other symptoms can accompany hyperventilation, and can serve as warning signs. These symptoms include a numbness or tingling sensation in the mouth, warns the University of Maryland Medical Center. In some cases, this sensation can radiate into the arms. Hyperventilation can also cause the mouth to feel dry. Taking steps to raise the carbon dioxide levels in the blood may help to relieve symptoms. Inhaling through pursed lips or just one nostril will reduce the amount of oxygen getting in, which can balance out the level of gases in the blood. However, a physician may also need to check the type and level of asthma medication being used to help fully control the symptoms.

Chest Tightness

Sometimes hyperventilation can precede or trigger an asthma attack, claims the AsthmaCare website. As breathing becomes quicker, chest pain, tightness or discomfort may occur. A racing pulse, dizziness and palpitations may or may not accompany this. The first step in treatment is to determine when the symptoms are due to hyperventilation and when they are due to an asthma attack. This can be difficult because when carbon dioxide levels in the blood rise, the airways can become restricted just like they do during an asthma attack and symptoms can be similar.

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