May 30, 2022

Can You Outgrow Asthma & Can it Come Back?

woman using an asthma inhaler at home

Asthma is a lifelong lung condition that causes breathing problems. It can affect people of any age and typically starts in childhood. There are different types of asthma, including childhood asthma, exercise-induced asthma, and occupational asthma

Asthma symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Wheezing when exhaling, especially in children
  • Reduced sleep quality caused by coughing, shortness of breath, or wheezing
  • Wheezing or coughing attacks that are worsened by a cold or the flu

Asthma varies in severity, with some people having milder symptoms and others having severe asthma attacks. Either way, asthma is a serious condition that can be fatal in some instances, so patients need to monitor their symptoms carefully and treat their condition according to a doctor’s directions. 

Taking action to address asthma only when symptoms occur isn’t effective. Managing asthma must be a partnership between doctor and patient.  

Asthma is a serious condition even if you only have mild symptoms. Research into cases in which children have died of asthma has shown that approximately one-third of deaths are in children with mild disease. 

Can asthma go away on its own or can you outgrow asthma? Yes, some people have childhood asthma, and its symptoms decrease with age. This is more likely for people who have mild asthma. However, a decrease in symptoms doesn’t always mean that the disease is truly gone. It’s not uncommon for childhood asthma to resolve and then to have asthma symptoms return later, even in middle age. 

Consequently, it’s important to be prepared for symptoms to return and to talk with your doctor if they do. You don’t want to be caught off guard with a serious asthma attack when you have no way to treat it. 

Who Is Most Likely to Outgrow Asthma?

It may be more accurate to ask who is most likely to have their asthma go into remission. Several factors increase the likelihood of your asthma symptoms going into remission, including that you:

  • Are male
  • Are older when you’re first diagnosed with asthma
  • Don’t have other allergic diseases such as eczema
  • Are mostly symptom-free and only wheeze when you have a cold
  • Have lower levels of Immunoglobulin E (IgE) and other biochemical asthma indicators
  • Have less sensitive or hyperresponsive lungs
  • Have better FEV1 or “forced vital capacity”
  • Have less sensitization and exposure to allergens
  • Have fewer asthma attacks overall and less need for rescue medication

In general, the more severe your asthma is, the less likely you are to experience remission.

Can Asthma Flare Up After Years?

The degree and pattern of asthma symptoms are different for every asthma patient. But, yes, for people whose symptoms go away for a time, asthma can flare up after years in remission. It’s estimated that of those people who have childhood asthma that resolves as they move into their teens, 25% will have symptoms return by age 21 and 35% will relapse by age 26.

So, if your asthma symptoms go away but then return later, you’re not alone. 

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What Can Trigger Asthma to Come Back?

It’s not entirely clear why a person can start experiencing asthma symptoms after going years without them. In some instances, the reappearance of symptoms occurs when an upper respiratory infection causes inflammation of the airways that makes them more sensitive to stimuli. When that happens, muscles in the airways twitch, and then an asthma attack follows.

The underlying cause of this sequence of events may be immune system changes that occur with age. Changes in hormone levels may also be involved. And increased exposure to allergens and other irritants may play a role, too. 

How Do You Know if Your Asthma Is Coming Back?

If you notice that you’re having increased breathing difficulties, your asthma may be coming back. Other conditions like the common cold can be responsible for breathing problems, of course, but if you’ve had asthma in the past, it’s important to be looking for signs of its return. 

How Do I Get Rid of Asthma Forever?

Is asthma permanent? At least at some level, yes, asthma typically is permanent. But while there’s no cure for asthma, there are many steps you can take to avoid asthma symptoms. 

The most important of these steps is to take the long-term controller medications that your doctor prescribes. Even if your symptoms start to improve, you should keep taking the medicines. If you don’t, your symptoms can return and require you to use fast-acting inhalers and other rescue medications, which isn’t ideal. 

It’s also helpful to avoid your asthma triggers as much as possible. For example, if you smoke, you should try to quit. You should keep pets out of your bedroom if pet dander is one of your triggers. You should also wash your bedding weekly and keep your home clean. Doing so is easier the fewer soft surfaces you have, so you might consider replacing your carpet with hard flooring and your curtains with blinds. 

It’s also a good idea to avoid exercising outside in cold weather, as this can trigger an asthma attack. 

If you have allergic asthma, you can take over-the-counter antihistamines during allergy season to minimize your asthma symptoms. Also, your doctor may recommend that you consider immunotherapy. 

Sometimes referred to simply as allergy shots, immunotherapy is a process in which small amounts of the substance(s) you’re allergic to are put into your body regularly for months or years to reduce your reaction to them. Many people can benefit from immunotherapy, but it can be especially helpful for children who have asthma and also seasonal allergies. 

So, while most asthma patients never get rid of their symptoms entirely, it’s possible to reduce them, potentially to the point where they have very little impact on a person’s quality of life. 

Severe Asthma Attacks Can Be Life-Threatening

Whether you’re currently having mild, moderate, or severe asthma — or no symptoms at all — it’s important to keep in mind that asthma can be life-threatening. If you experience an asthma emergency, it’s important to get medical help right away. Signs of an asthma emergency include:

  • Quickly worsening wheezing and shortness of breath
  • No improvement after you use a quick-relief inhaler or other rescue medication
  • Shortness of breath even with mild exertion or physical activity

It’s also crucial to understand your condition and what your “baseline” symptoms are — meaning how often they occur, how serious they are, etc. If your level of symptoms increases significantly, you should talk with your doctor. It may be that the medications you take to control your asthma and respond to attacks need to be modified. Your doctor can perform tests and make the necessary adjustments to your medications. 

Learn More About Asthma from Baptist Health

Asthma is a serious condition that requires treatment and monitoring. Your doctor can work with you to find the best ways to reduce your symptoms when they first appear or if they go away for a time and then return. 

If you don’t have a Baptist Health doctor yet, you can find one using our online provider directory

Next Steps and Useful Resources

Find a Provider
Discover Care Options
How to Sleep Better with Asthma
Is Asthma Inherited?

Learn More.