August 17, 2023/Lung

Can You Outgrow Asthma?

Symptoms may lessen over time, but the condition never truly goes away

A child and a man both using an inhaler

Asthma threatens the breathing of approximately 300 million people around the world. It’s an always- looming condition that can limit daily activities and serve as a constant source of frustration.

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So, what is the chance that this health worry dwindles or even disappears with time and age? Let’s find out from pulmonologist Neha Solanki, MD.

Can your asthma go away?

The simple answer is no. And there’s no cure for asthma. If your airways are sensitive and prone to the sudden inflammation that defines an asthma attack, they’ll always be vulnerable to a future episode.

“I wish I could tell you that asthma goes away when you turn X number of years in age, but that’s just not the case,” says Dr. Solanki.

Now it is possible to see reduced asthma symptoms, though. In fact, many children with asthma appear to outgrow the condition. About half of kids with asthma typically see a noticeable decrease in breathing issues as they enter their teens.

But that doesn’t mean their asthma is gone. Instead, think of it as lying dormant but ready to awaken. “Asthma can come and go over time,” notes Dr. Solanki. “People grow back into it.”

Can you develop asthma later in life?

Anyone can develop asthma at any point in their life. There’s simply no age between childhood and senior living where asthma symptoms can’t suddenly appear.

Adult-onset asthma often begins following a respiratory illness (such as influenza). A new or broader exposure to an unknown allergen or trigger ­— maybe something as simple as mold or campfire smoke — also could set off an inflammatory reaction that becomes chronic.

“It’s very puzzling and we don’t know exactly why it happens,” shares Dr. Solanki. “But in most cases of adult-onset asthma, it seems like something pushes you over into having the chronic disease.”

Growing asthma numbers

One thing is clear when it comes to asthma: The situation is growing.

The worldwide population of people with asthma increases by an estimated 50% every decade, according to researchers. That number is probably low, too, as asthma is often underdiagnosed.

Symptoms of asthma may include:

  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Wheezing.
  • Chest tightness or pressure.
  • A dry cough.

Tips to control your asthma

Keeping asthma in check or at bay often comes down to limiting your exposure to potential triggers and making healthy lifestyle decisions. Dr. Solanki’s recommendations for managing asthma include:

  • Avoidance. If being around cats and dogs puts your allergies or asthma into overdrive … well, try your best to avoid cats and dogs. (Furry friends are just one example, too. The same principle applies to any type of trigger.)
  • Don’t smoke or vape. Managing asthma starts with protecting your lungs. Smoking cigarettes or breathing in second-hand smoke can trigger asthma attacks. Inhaling the aerosol mist in e-cigarettes can also lead to respiratory issues.
  • Pay attention to air quality. Pollutants in the air can create unhealthy conditions outside that can trigger breathing issues. Watch for alerts when the Air Quality Index reaches high levels.
  • Use hypoallergenic bedding. More dust mites than can even imagine call your bed home. Using hypoallergenic bedding can minimize your exposure to these tiny creatures.
  • Take prescribed medications. If you have asthma, regular use of inhaled corticosteroids can limit airway inflammation and help prevent asthma flare-ups. But medications need to be taken regularly and as prescribed to work effectively.

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Bottom line on asthma

It’s true that asthma can have an effect on your day-to-day life. But it doesn’t need to control your life. Medications and some simple lifestyle choices can keep asthma from flaring up.

“Asthma is an encouraging condition to treat because people can learn to live better with it,” says Dr. Solanki. “It’s something you can take care of and manage — and we can’t say that about a lot of chronic illnesses.”

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