Asthma can be difficult to live with. It can begin in early childhood and last into adulthood.
However, for some patients, asthma symptoms can resolve in adulthood, causing many individuals to wonder if asthma can be outgrown or cured.
To understand the answer to this question, it’s critical to first understand what asthma really is.
In this article, I’ll cover what asthma is and whether it can go into remission.
I’ll also go over symptom prevention and when to see a doctor.
What is Asthma?
Asthma is a long-term disease that affects the airways in the lungs.
Scientists have been searching for a clear cause of asthma but so far, there is no definitive answer.
However, enough data has been collected to know that the following factors may play a role in whether or not you or your child develop asthma:
Asthma tends to run in families, particularly through the maternal line.
Children with a parent who has asthma are more likely to also suffer from the disease, and the risk goes up if it is the mother who is asthmatic.
People who have allergies are more likely to be asthmatic than people who don’t have allergies.
Again, if one or both parents have the condition, a child is at higher risk.
People who have asthma are also more likely to have allergies, and also may have a higher risk of a severe allergic reaction involving their airway.
Early childhood illness
Lungs continue their development throughout infancy and early childhood.
Many childhood illnesses include some sort of respiratory infection, and these types of infections can inflame and damage developing lung tissue.
This damage can adversely affect lung function for the rest of your or your child’s life.
Respiratory syncytial virus specifically can increase your child’s risk for asthma.
Children raised in an environment that contains allergens and pollutants that act as irritants, or who are constantly exposed to viral infections as infants when their immune systems aren’t fully mature, are more likely to develop asthma than children who have clean fresh air to breathe.
Adults who are exposed to certain dust or chemicals in the workplace are also at increased risk.
Adults who did not have asthma as a child but developed the condition later in life are said to have “adult-onset asthma.”
Symptoms of asthma include coughing, especially at night or when lying down; trouble breathing deeply or catching your breath; wheezing, especially when under any sort of exertion; or feeling tightness in the chest.
Symptoms may get worse when triggered by cold air, activity, dust, or allergens.
Can Asthma Go Into Remission?
Asthma can go into remission, but that’s exactly what it is: clinical remission.
The symptoms stop manifesting and you may see normal lung and airway function, but the underlying disease isn’t cured.
There currently is no cure for asthma.
While remission may last for months or even years, it typically returns, and symptoms resume.
Can Children Outgrow Asthma?
Some children have asthmatic symptoms that disappear completely as they grow older.
While this has often been pointed to as “proof” that asthma can go away, it’s generally agreed among medical professionals that the older child never actually had asthma at all.
Instead, they may have been suffering from reactive airways responding to allergens, pollutants, or other respiratory complaints that mimicked childhood asthma symptoms.
Can Symptoms Return After Remission?
Even while there are no glaring symptoms during intervals of remission, there may still be inflammation of lung tissue.
Any kind of trigger can cause full symptomatic asthma to return, so it’s important to keep rescue asthma medications on hand and up-to-date even during extended periods of remission.
Can Asthma Symptoms Be Prevented?
While asthma can’t be cured and never really goes away, there is a lot you can do to help prevent symptoms.
Being aware of the early signs of asthma symptoms and having an asthma action plan is key to living a full and active life.
If you are an adult with asthma, and smoke, you are likely triggering many attacks.
Smoking puts extra strain on your lungs and respiratory system.
Quitting smoking can allow your lungs to begin to heal from smoke related damage, and can help prevent coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and tightness in your chest.
If you have a child with asthma, providing them with a smoke free environment and serving as an example of not smoking can help them have healthier lungs as well.
If they aren’t exposed to smoke, their risk of triggering an attack can also be reduced.
Other triggers that commonly cause an asthma attack should also be avoided.
These include frequenting venues where people are allowed to smoke, environments with a lot of dust, and allergens like pet dander or pollen.
By knowing what specifically triggers your or your child’s asthma attacks, you can make plans to avoid those triggers.
Proper management of asthma requires planning for times when you or your child may suffer exposure so you’re ready to head off an attack as quickly as possible.
Asthma can be treated with two different types of medication; short-acting and long-acting.
Short term medication usually contains some sort of ingredient that relaxes muscles and opens the airways, and is delivered in mist form through an inhaler.
It’s important to keep an inhaler on hand at all times, to renew prescriptions promptly, and replace the inhaler when it is out of date.
Even if you have been in remission, a trigger could cause a sudden flare in symptoms and you’ll need your inhaler to avoid difficulty breathing.
Some act to reduce the body’s response to asthma triggers, reducing the chances of an attack.
Others help prevent airway inflammation, reducing the symptoms of asthma overall.
When to See a Doctor
If you or your child have asthma, it’s vital to know when symptoms merit going to the doctor.
Having a clear asthma action plan and reviewing it regularly to help you identify when medical care is required.
The goal of an action plan is to identify where you or your child are in respect to three “zones.”
Green: No medical help required
In the green zone, there are no active symptoms or distress, breathing is good, airflow is good, and only control medication is being routinely used.
Yellow: Close monitoring needed
In the yellow zone, symptoms have manifested, and use of quick-relief medicines is advised.
If symptoms continue for 24 hours or worsen, the situation moves into the red zone.
Red: Seek medical care swiftly
In the red zone, symptoms have persisted or worsened, rescue medication is not proving effective, and it’s time to seek extra help.
Call your or your child’s doctor, and if they aren’t available, go to the closest emergency room.
Accepting that asthma doesn’t go away, even if you or your child experience remission intervals, can help you stay vigilant and prepared for the return of symptoms.
How K Health Can Help
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Frequently Asked Questions
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
What Causes Asthma? (2020.)
Remission of asthma: The next therapeutic frontier? (2011.)
Do children outgrow asthma?
Asthma in Children. (2018.)
Asthma Action Plans. (2020.)