Outgrowing Asthma, Part I
A patient asked me recently about the chances that
his 8-year-old son would outgrow his asthma. I told
him that this depended on what he meant by outgrow.
By the time they reach 18 years of age, up to half of
all asthmatic children will have no asthma symptoms
and require no regular asthma medication. The milder
the asthma is in childhood -- and the later the age of
onset -- the better the chances of becoming
These asymptomatic adolescents haven’t been cured
of their asthmatic airways, however. They remain
vulnerable to asthma attacks after age 20, often
triggered by respiratory infections or prolonged
exposure to allergens. It’s not uncommon for asthma
to return in early adulthood if a previously asthmatic
child moves in with someone who has a cat or a dust-
mite laden mattress. Studies show that about half of
asthmatic children who become asymptomatic in late
adolescence experience a return of asthma symptoms
sometime in their 20s.
Another way we know that asthma hasn’t really been
cured when it remits during adolescence is that their
lungs remain twitchy when tested with an inhaled drug
called methacholine. Even without asthma symptoms
or attacks, or the need for asthma medicine over many
years, the lungs of formerly asthmatic children are not
entirely normal. I’ll tell you more about this next time.
by Franklin Adkinson, M.D.