Asthma is a chronic lung disease that causes inflammation and narrowing of the bronchial tubes, making it difficult to breathe. Many people wonder if asthma is something they will eventually outgrow or if it is a lifelong condition. The answer is complicated and depends on several factors.
In general, asthma does not completely go away for most people. However, there are cases where symptoms seem to disappear over time, especially in childhood asthma. With proper management and treatment, most people are able to control their asthma symptoms and live active, healthy lives.
When Does Childhood Asthma Go Away?
Asthma often starts in childhood, usually before the age of 5. Up to 80% of children with asthma will see their symptoms start to improve by the time they are in their late teens. However, only about 35% of children will actually “outgrow” their asthma altogether.
Some key points about childhood asthma resolution:
Age of Onset
– Children diagnosed under age 3 have the highest rates of resolving asthma later in childhood. Up to 80% may see complete remission of symptoms by the teenage years.
– Children diagnosed between ages 3-5 have lower rates of resolution, but still up to 60% may outgrow symptoms.
– Asthma that develops after age 10 is less likely to go away entirely. Only about 20% of cases resolve.
– Boys are more likely to outgrow childhood asthma than girls, especially when diagnosed at a young age under 3 years old.
– Up to 80% of young boys may see their asthma resolve compared to 65% of girls.
– After puberty, remission rates even out between genders.
– Children with intermittent, mild asthma symptoms are more likely to outgrow their asthma compared to those with persistent, moderate to severe asthma.
– Being allergy-free and having low eosinophil counts (a type of white blood cell) also predict better chances of childhood asthma resolution.
– Exposure to smoke and respiratory infections reduce the likelihood of growing out of asthma.
So in summary, the earlier asthma starts in childhood and the milder the symptoms, the better the chances of asthma resolution by the late teens. But there are no guarantees it will completely go away.
When Does Adult-Onset Asthma Resolve?
Asthma can also develop for the first time in adulthood. Factors like respiratory infections, allergies, smoking, and environmental irritants are common triggers. Compared to childhood asthma, adult-onset asthma is less likely to go away over time.
Only about 11-14% of adults with asthma will see their symptoms resolve completely. Adult women have slightly better rates of resolution (13-17%) compared to men (8-11%).
For most adult asthma patients, achieving well-controlled, minimal symptoms is a more realistic goal than expecting lifelong remission. With continued treatment and avoiding triggers, adults can often control asthma for decades without major flare-ups.
Managing Asthma for the Long-Term
Since asthma rarely resolves completely after the teenage years, it’s important for patients to work closely with their doctors for long-term management. Key strategies include:
Take Control Medications
– Inhaled corticosteroids – These anti-inflammatory medications are the most effective long-term control for persistent asthma. They help prevent flare-ups and improve lung function over time.
– Long-acting bronchodilators – Relax and open the airways and can be added to corticosteroids for additional symptom relief.
– Biologic therapies – New targeted antibodies used for severe asthma unresponsive to other medications.
– Allergens – Dust mites, pet dander, pollen, mold. Use allergy covers, HEPA filters, wash bedding frequently in hot water. Consider allergy shots.
– Irritants – Cigarette smoke, chemicals, air pollution. Avoid exposure when possible.
– Respiratory infections – Get an annual flu shot, practice good hygiene.
Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
– Exercise regularly to keep lungs and airways strong.
– Maintain a healthy weight.
– Limit caffeine and alcohol which can provoke symptoms.
– Manage stress, anxiety and gastroesophageal reflux which can worsen asthma control.
– Keep an asthma diary to identify patterns and triggers.
– Use a peak flow meter at home to monitor lung function.
– See your doctor for regular checkups to assess control and make adjustments as needed.
Can Asthma Symptoms Completely Disappear?
It is possible, though rare, for some adults to have complete, permanent remission of asthma symptoms without the return of wheezing, coughing, or shortness of breath. However, even if you no longer have active symptoms, it does not mean your asthma is “cured”. Airway hyperresponsiveness can persist for decades after symptoms disappear.
Factors associated with sustained remission include:
– Childhood-onset asthma
– Male gender
– Milder asthma severity
– Minimal to no allergy symptoms
– Avoidance of smoking and trigger exposures
– No family history of asthma
However, recurrence of symptoms is still possible even after years of remission, especially if you develop new triggers like allergies or experience major hormonal changes like pregnancy. For this reason, most doctors recommend patients continue long-term monitoring and medication as needed even when in remission.
The Bottom Line
For the majority of people, asthma is a chronic condition requiring lifelong management. While some children do outgrow their asthma by the late teens, the prognosis for symptom resolution is lower for adults. With proper treatment and avoiding triggers, most asthma patients are able to achieve good symptom control and quality of life. Though uncommon, complete remission can occur in some adults, especially those with childhood-onset asthma. However, recurrence of symptoms is still possible and long-term monitoring is recommended.
|Age of Onset
|Before age 3
|Up to 80%
|Up to 60%
|After age 10