Panic Attack vs Asthma Attack


Panic attacks and asthma attacks are very hard to distinguish as both of them share similar characteristics. Since the common symptoms are shortness of breath and chest tightness in both kinds of attacks it becomes tough to recognise which is what and what preventions or treatment should be provided to the individual. 

Panic attack

What is a Panic Attack?

Now panic attacks are different from asthma attacks where anxiety and/or intense fear takes over and leads to visible fear or confusion suddenly and stays for a brief period of time. It also includes physical symptoms  such as shortness of breath. Those with underlying mental illnesses have more frequent episodes such as anxiety disorders and struggle with mental health. 


Panic disorders consist of panic attacks or anxiety attacks where you feel sudden bouts of fear, feeling of anxiousness and similar symptoms that occur for a few minutes or maybe hours. The panic attacks are symptoms of panic disorders as a whole which also consists of anxiety. 

An anxiety attack is a feeling of uneasiness where a sense of fear and unsafety exists along with the individual panicking for a brief period of time, minutes or hours. It shows symptoms of having an increased heartbeat, sweating, nausea, shortness of breath, chills and trembling limbs. It can also cause dryness of the mouth, ringing in the ears and feeling detached from the present self or the environment. It depends on the severity of the condition for how long the attack exists in duration and how frequent it can occur in a day or a week. 


The symptoms are shortness of breath and tightness in the chest thus seem similar to an asthma attack. There are several other symptoms along with the ones mentioned above which differentiate it from the asthma attack such as sweating a lot and increased heart rate or increased breathing rate and nausea. 

Management and Treatment:

For panic attacks, the management again depends on the severity and symptoms. We on an individual basis can do some deep breathing which has been said to be helpful in such situations. Deep or controlled breathing takes away the fear and the anxiety and reattaches yourself to your being if done mindfully. Medications are also present to deal with panic attacks but it deals with anxiety to be precise. Stress management may help as stress is a contributing factor to anxiety and causes the condition to worsen. Another approach towards managing panic attacks is doing relaxation exercises or little movement every day along with investing your energy in any activity or hobbies which keep you happy and relaxed.  If needed appropriate mental health support or therapies from specialists or counsellors will also work. [1]

Asthma attack

What is an Asthma Attack?

So let us talk about Asthma attacks first which is because of the constrictions of the airways and inflammations in the lungs. This leads to blockage in the pathway of your airway system which then can cause difficulty in breathing. 


Some triggers cause Asthma to occur which include allergies to things such as pollen, dust, and animal fur. But also due to environmental factors such as smoke and pollution. Lesser-known triggers include changes in weather and medication. Heavy exercise may also trigger Asthma.


The symptoms can cause chest tightness or wheezing and coughing and when such attacks occur it causes more trouble by the symptoms being severe for a period of time. During an asthma attack, the bronchial tubes get more constricted and thus the individual is not able to breathe properly, wheezing can be heard along with continuous coughing for a few minutes or even several hours. 

Management and Treatment:

The management of asthma attacks starts with seeing a Doctor who can help in checking the severity of your symptoms. How often you are having these attacks or how often you are wheezing and coughing or experiencing chest tightness and chest pain. Moving over to the medications, quick-relief inhalers are based on corticosteroid or leukotriene modifiers which can help in decreasing the blockages or the inflammations in the pathways of your airway system. Those with severe Asthma may need higher doses in these inhalers.  [2]

Similarities and Differences

So, now if we talk about the similarities and differences, the distinguishing factor between both is that in asthma attacks the airways of the lungs get constricted and there is a decrease in oxygen in your lungs or the body whereas in panic attacks there is hyperventilation which leads to increase in oxygen in the body. So basically we need to know about both the issues so that a specific approach can be made in dealing with these issues. This can help the doctors as well to develop a specified treatment plan which can just focus on that particular issue as some medications work for asthma attacks but not for panic attacks eg. bronchodilators which can relieve the asthma symptoms but can increase panic attacks and anxiety among individuals. 

Thus, such issues may have common symptoms but the causes are different and the approach toward treatment is different as well. We can't deal with both of them with conventional management techniques as the root causes are different. Sometimes it's difficult to understand as asthma and panic attacks are present at the same time thus it becomes complex to find out the root cause but then if you take help or seek medical attention you'll be in safe hands. So, if you are having such symptoms and feel there is a lack of monitoring to what is the root cause then help your doctor with your symptoms and frequencies so that they can plan out a specified treatment plan for you. 


While Asthma and Panic attacks seem very similar there are distinct differences between them both. While it may seem like your chest is tightening and feel like you are having a heart attack that is not the case. It is important to stress to take time out to enjoy doing things you like to do as it will improve your mental health and make you feel happier. With management and treatment, it can help fewer episodes of attacks to occur. 


  1. Camden and Islington NHS foundation trust,2022. “Panic attacks’ Available from:
  2. National Health Service, 2022. “Asthma” Available from: 
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

Get our health newsletter

Get daily health and wellness advice from our medical team.
Your privacy is important to us. Any information you provide to this website may be placed by us on our servers. If you do not agree do not provide the information.

Dr. Chanchal Singh

Masters in Public Health in Global Health, Queen's University Belfast
She is a Dentist and a public health professional. She loves writing medical content to diminish the ignorance around several issues regarding humans and healthcare.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
Klarity is a citizen-centric health data management platform that enables citizens to securely access, control and share their own health data. Klarity Health Library aims to provide clear and evidence-based health and wellness related informative articles. 
Klarity / Managed Self Ltd
Alum House
5 Alum Chine Road
Westbourne Bournemouth BH4 8DT
VAT Number: 362 5758 74
Company Number: 10696687

Phone Number:

 +44 20 3239 9818