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Babylon Health

Can You Grow Out of Asthma?

If you or your child was ever diagnosed with asthma, you may have noticed the symptoms lessening over time At some point, it may even seem like a child’s asthma goes away altogether. But can you grow out of asthma as you age?

Is asthma a chronic medical condition?

Yes. Asthma is chronic, and it will be something you or your child will have to deal with your whole life. Though asthma symptoms may lessen or you may go through a period of not having symptoms at all, you will remain asthmatic for the rest of your life. Asthma treatment and environmental factors can lessen the effects of severe asthma and young children may grow a stronger tolerance to some allergens and other triggers. However, it’s not possible to have simply outgrown symptoms of asthma completely.

Asthma patients may experience a shift in symptoms, especially in the teenage years. A child’s symptoms may include:

  • Frequent coughing (worse if your child gets a viral infection)
  • Breath that whistle or wheezes on an exhale
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness or congestion
  • Bronchitis after respiratory infections
  • Difficulty sleeping due to coughing
  • Trouble breathing during physical activity

The biggest issue with childhood asthma is the effect it has on growing lungs. Pediatric patients may face complications, such as decreased lung function or severe asthma attacks that require a trip to your hospital’s emergency department. However, decreasing your child’s exposure to risk factors and allergens, combined with asthma management as recommended by your healthcare provider, can reduce the symptoms of childhood asthma.

It’s important to remember that decreased symptoms don't mean your child is cured of asthma. Keep an asthma action plan ready in case your child suffers an attack at home or at school. Children with chronic diseases like asthma and diabetes must have plans written by their primary care doctors along with medication that is left at school in case of an emergency. Make sure they know what to do when they get old enough to manage their own asthma symptoms. As your child’s asthma changes over time, make sure to talk with their doctor about changing your approach to asthma management.

What does asthma feel like?

As well as chest pains and shortness of breath, the most common signs and symptoms of asthma include wheezing, coughing and difficulty breathing. Asthma attacks can happen suddenly but they can also develop slowly over a few days.

Adult asthma symptoms

As asthma patients get older, they’ll likely experience many of the same symptoms as they did as a child, though they may change in severity or impact. The wheezing exhales that often characterize pediatric asthma also usually go away by adulthood, which may be why asthma seems to go away. However, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, about 1/3 of children with asthma will still experience symptoms when they’re adults.

In addition to shortness of breath, chest tightness, and coughing or wheezing attacks, you may find that your asthma flares up in certain situations. The most common are exercise-induced asthma, occupational asthma, and allergy-induced asthma. You should talk to your doctor if you notice a significant change in your symptoms, especially if they begin to impact your quality of life.

Intermittent asthma vs persistent asthma

Most people who we think of as having asthma have persistent asthma. Their symptoms are fairly frequent or can be experienced for days and weeks at a time. However, some people experience what’s called intermittent asthma.

What is intermittent asthma?

Patients with intermittent asthma don’t experience symptoms more than 2 days a week and 2 nights a month. If you experience symptoms more frequently, you should talk to your doctor about a persistent asthma diagnosis.

Intermittent asthma can have attacks just as severe as persistent asthma. For example, having “mild intermittent asthma with acute exacerbation” just means that you usually have very mild symptoms, but can be triggered into an asthma attack.

If you have intermittent asthma, it may be more difficult to pin down exactly why you’re experiencing symptoms. Intermittent asthma is just as permanent as persistent asthma, which means that you’ll still need to manage your symptoms for your whole life. It’s also possible that intermittent asthma may develop into persistent asthma.

Can asthma go away and come back?

Asthma cannot be permanently controlled, but it can go into remission. If you don’t experience asthma symptoms or use corticosteroid medications and do experience significant improvement or stabilization of lung function, your doctor may declare your asthma in remission.

With asthma in remission, you may experience very minor or no asthma symptoms, fewer doctor visits related to your symptoms, and less use of quick-relievers like inhalers. You’re more likely to experience remission if you already have mild symptoms and if your asthma was diagnosed early in life.

Asthma triggers can end your period of remission, even if you’ve gone years without symptoms. Colds and allergies are the most common triggers for a return of symptoms. Anything with a severe impact on your pulmonary system can trigger your symptoms to reappear.

What are triggers of asthma attacks?

The most common asthma triggers are pulmonary diseases like colds and the flu, and allergies. However, there are plenty of asthma irritants that might cause an asthma flare-up or even an asthma attack. Other triggers of asthma symptoms include:

  • dust mites
  • air pollution
  • cold air
  • pet dander
  • Smoke (any type)
  • chemicals (especially in work places)
  • pollen
  • strong scents
  • anxiety or stress
  • family history of asthma
  • environmental factors

Minimizing or completely avoiding contact with these triggers plays a big part in minimizing your asthma symptoms. You can work with a healthcare provider to discover what triggers are a particular problem for you. They may have recommendations on how to avoid asthma triggers.

Asthma flare-up symptoms and treatment

A mild asthma flare-up may just be a return of symptoms you’ve experienced before. If your asthma was in remission, a flare can show up as symptoms that you used to experience before you went into remission. Regular asthma flare-up treatment is as simple as using a daily inhaler or other asthma management that you used to use before you went into remission. Make sure to talk to your doctor about the return of symptoms.

A full asthma attack is more serious and may require emergency care if your symptoms don’t respond to home treatment. With an attack, look out for severe chest pain or tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing or wheezing. If you use a peak flow meter, low peak expiratory flow (PEF) readings may occur during an asthma attack. If you use a quick-acting or rescue inhaler, and your symptoms don’t improve with use, it’s time to seek emergency care.


Can adults outgrow asthma?

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Short answer: no. Asthma is a chronic, ongoing condition that you will experience for the rest of your life. It may go into periods of remission or lessened severity, but it’s always possible for your symptoms to flare up. Adults may grow into a milder version of their asthma if they’re able to avoid triggers and take asthma medication, but your asthma is always a health concern.

What does an asthma flare-up feel like?

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A mild asthma flare-up mostly feels like a normal day with asthma. You may experience shortness of breath and coughing or wheezing, along with difficulty catching your breath and wheezing exhales.

Asthma flare-ups may be life-threatening if they don’t respond to at-home treatment. If your symptoms are severe and don’t improve with the use of a rescue inhaler, seek medical attention immediately.

How long do asthma flare-ups last?

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If your flare-up is mild or you weren’t exposed to a large amount of your trigger, a flare-up may only last a few minutes. More severe symptoms may last hours or days, and the most severe symptoms may need medical treatment to go away.

How does asthma affect the body?

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Asthma causes inflammation in your pulmonary system, which results in air passages swelling and narrowing. This, along with an excess of mucus, can cause difficulty breathing along with chest tightness or pain. It may make physical activity harder, since it’s harder to catch your breath with asthma.

Do asthma inhalers expire?

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Yes. Like most medicine, inhalers have an expiration date. Most inhalers expire after a year, after which the medicine may no longer be safe or effective. If it’s a dire emergency and you don’t have access to a non-expired inhaler, an expired inhaler may provide some relief, but only do this if you can’t access a non-expired inhaler or emergency medical treatment.