Community Blog

Symptoms of Asthma in Seniors

By Vicki and Brian Day

Asthma can occur at any age, but people most often associate it with a childhood malady. You might be surprised to learn, however, that many adults get asthma too, and that it is actually a very common condition in the elderly.
In seniors, asthma can be caused by a relapse of the asthma that they had as a child, but went into remission as they grew older. It can also be caused by sinus infections and other respiratory illnesses that damage the respiratory system and lead to chronic problems with the lungs.

Knowing that asthma is a real possibility, it is important for you and your senior care aide to know the symptoms as they present themselves in adults. For the most part, the symptoms are the same as they are for asthma in young people, but for elderly adults, ignoring these symptoms can be especially dangerous. Elderly adults are much more likely to have respiratory failure as a result of their asthma, so you should learn the symptoms so you can catch it as soon as possible.

Asthma symptoms

  • Tightness in chest – A feeling of tightness or pressure in the chest can be caused by the contracting of the muscles in the chest cavity as a response to the lungs overreacting to stimuli like allergens. This can also cause swelling in the airway, making it feel as if something heavy is sitting on your chest, or that you just can’t release the tension there.
  • Wheezing – People wheeze when they find it hard to breathe. When your airway is swollen and the muscles around your chest are contracting in an asthma attack, this makes it very hard to breathe! If you notice your loved one wheezing, this could be a sign that something is going on inside their lungs.
  • Shortness of breath – Shortness of breath, especially after exercise or some exertive activity, can be a sign that asthma is present. If your loved one has trouble getting their breath back after physical activity, or even doing something relatively normal like walking from one side of the room to the other, it might be time for a checkup.
  • Cough – A dry cough that seemingly has no provocation can also be a sign of asthma. At times, people cough when their lungs are trying to breathe better, and this is a constant struggle with asthma. The dry cough often appears at night, or if the sufferer has been outside or in contact with an allergen like pollen or pet dander.
  • Difficulty breathing – Difficulty breathing is always something that you need to attend to. If your loved one is having trouble catching their breath, or constantly feels winded, this could mean that their lungs are working against them.
  • Extended colds – Asthma can damage the lungs and the rest of the chest cavity, making colds and flus last longer than they should. A cold that tends to just sit in the chest for weeks on end could be more than just a cold, and could be a sign of asthma.

If you or your senior care aide notice any of these symptoms in your aging loved one, contact a health care professional as soon as possible to get them the help they need.