(Last Updated On: June 27, 2023)

Does Asthma Get Worse with Age? Signs and Solutions

As we age, our immune system undergoes several changes that can worsen asthma. One such change is an increase in systemic inflammation over the years. This type of inflammation occurs when the body’s immune system produces inflammatory molecules, causing damage to tissues and organs throughout the body, including the lungs. 

Aging also leads to increased airway inflammation, which can exacerbate asthma severity and prolong asthma duration. Airway inflammation can lead to common asthma symptoms, such as wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath.

Age plays an important role in the severity of symptoms experienced by asthmatics. Older adults who have had asthma for years may have other health conditions that exacerbate their symptoms, such as heart disease or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Older adults also may have reduced lung function due to aging, making it harder for them to breathe during an asthma attack. 

Older adults with asthma may face unique challenges when it comes to managing their symptoms. However, they can take steps to manage their symptoms effectively.

Mature woman using inhaler

How Asthma Symptoms Change with Age

The duration and intensity of asthma may change with age due to several factors:

Age-Related Changes in Lung Function

As we age, our lungs naturally undergo changes that can make it harder for asthmatics to breathe. These changes can include a decrease in lung elasticity and a reduction in the number of functioning alveoli (tiny air sacs in the lungs), which may increase the duration of asthma symptoms and require more aggressive treatment approaches.

Constricted Airways

The duration of asthma can affect the changes in symptoms over time, especially for asthmatics who have had the condition for many years. As people age, their airways may become less elastic, making it harder to breathe. This means that older adults with asthma may need to rely more on medicine to manage their symptoms and seek regular check-ups. Older adults may also be more susceptible to infections and other respiratory illnesses that can exacerbate their symptoms.

Hormonal Changes

Changes in hormone levels during menopause can also trigger asthma symptoms in asthmatics. This change occurs because estrogen plays a role in regulating inflammation in the body, including inflammation in the airways. As estrogen levels decline during menopause, women with asthma who have been taking medicine for years may experience an increase in symptoms.

Signs that Asthma is Worsening

Symptoms of asthma can range from mild to severe, and they can change over time. Asthma severity can be determined by the frequency and intensity of symptoms. Recognizing these signs is crucial in managing asthma. Signs that asthma is worsening, which vary depending on the individual, include:

Shortness of Breath

One sign that indicates worsening asthma in asthmatics is shortness of breath. Shortness of breath occurs when the airways become inflamed, making it difficult for air to move in and out of the lungs. An individual may feel like they cannot catch or take a deep breath, which is especially concerning if it occurs during activities such as walking or climbing stairs. 


Wheezing is another symptom that can indicate worsening asthma in asthmatics. Wheezing is a high-pitched whistling sound that occurs when air flows through narrowed airways and can last for a varying duration. It is often heard when exhaling but can also occur during inhalation, especially in young adult asthmatics. Wheezing may be accompanied by difficulty breathing, chest tightness, and coughing.

Chest Tightness

Chest tightness is a common symptom among asthmatics, but it can also indicate worsening asthma. Chest tightness occurs when the muscles around the airways constrict, making it difficult for air to flow freely in and out of the lungs. This symptom may feel like someone is squeezing your chest or putting pressure on it.

Need for Increased Medication

Asthma severity can also be assessed in asthmatics using minor criteria such as the need for increased medication or decreased lung function. An individual with asthma may need to use their rescue inhaler more frequently than usual or require additional medication to control their symptoms for a longer duration. The increased need for medication could indicate that their asthma is getting worse. 

The Impact of Aging on Asthma Management 

As we age, our bodies undergo changes that can impact the way asthmatics manage health conditions. While asthma can affect people of all ages, older adults may face unique challenges when it comes to managing their symptoms. Here are some key factors to consider when it comes to asthma management in older adults:

Comorbidities and Healthcare Utilization

Older adults who are asthmatics are more likely to have other health conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes. These comorbidities can make asthma management more complex, as they may require additional medications or lifestyle modifications that could impact asthma control. Older asthmatics tend to have higher healthcare utilization rates and more frequent hospitalizations than younger patients with the condition.

Medication Side Effects and Interactions

Many older adults and asthmatics take multiple medications for various health conditions, increasing the risk of side effects or drug interactions when adding an asthma medication into the mix. For example, some blood pressure medications may interact with certain types of inhalers used for asthma treatment. Careful monitoring and adjustment of medication regimens is essential for ensuring safe and effective treatment outcomes.

Solutions for Managing Asthma for Older Adults

Older adults with asthma can take steps to manage their symptoms effectively. Regular monitoring of lung function through spirometry testing or other diagnostic tools can help identify changes early on so that adjustments to treatment plans can be made proactively.

Lifestyle modifications such as smoking cessation and regular exercise–with physician approval–may help improve lung function and overall asthma control, regardless of the duration of asthma. Older adults with asthma should work closely with their healthcare providers to develop a comprehensive treatment plan that takes into account any comorbidities or other health concerns they may have.

It is important for asthmatics over the years to work closely with their healthcare provider to manage their condition effectively. Treatment options for asthma include medications, such as inhalers and nebulizers that help open up the airways and reduce inflammation. Lifestyle modifications, such as avoiding triggers like smoke or pollution and staying physically active can also help manage symptoms.

Avoiding Triggers

Adult asthmatics should be aware of their triggers to better manage their asthma symptoms. Identifying triggers is an essential step in the management of asthma, especially for older adults who may have developed additional health conditions that can worsen asthma symptoms. Common triggers for adult asthmatics include smoke, dust, pollen, and pet dander.

One way to address asthma triggers is to avoid them altogether. For example, if a person with asthma is allergic to certain types of pollen, they should stay indoors when the pollen count is high or wear a mask when going outside. Similarly, if a person with asthma is sensitive to cigarette smoke, avoid smoking areas or ask people not to smoke around them.

Reducing Inflammation with Inhaled Corticosteroids

Inhaled corticosteroids are considered the most effective medicine for reducing inflammation in the airways of asthmatics. These medications work by reducing swelling and mucus production in the airways, making it easier to breathe, even after years of suffering from asthma. Inhaled corticosteroids are not only effective at treating symptoms but can also help prevent symptoms from worsening with age and duration of asthma by reducing inflammation and preventing exacerbations.

Having Regular Checkups with Healthcare Providers

It is important for asthmatics who have had asthma for years to work closely with their healthcare provider to develop a plan to manage their symptoms effectively. This plan may involve regular check-ups and adjustments to medication dosages based on symptom severity and the duration of their condition.

Healthcare providers may also recommend lifestyle modifications to help asthmatics manage their symptoms. These modifications may include avoiding triggers, practicing good hygiene to reduce the probability of respiratory infections, and maintaining a healthy weight.

Developing an Asthma Management Plan

An asthma management plan is a written document that outlines the steps to take when symptoms occur. An asthma action plan helps individuals recognize when their symptoms are getting worse and what to do about it. Older adults with asthma should work with their healthcare provider to develop an effective management plan that takes into account variables such as age, comorbidities, and medication use.

Regular Review of Asthma Management Plan

Variables such as age, comorbidities, medication use, and duration of asthma can impact asthma control in older adults. Therefore, it’s important to regularly review and update the asthma management plan with a physician. Regular follow-up visits help improve outcomes in patients with severe persistent asthma.

Using Tools Such as Peak Flow Meter

A peak flow meter is a simple tool used to measure how well air moves out of your lungs. Using a peak flow meter regularly for a certain duration can help older adults better manage their asthma by tracking changes in lung function over time. Knowing when to call a healthcare provider for more information or support can also help older adults better manage their symptoms.

Can Air Purifiers Help With Age-Related Asthma?

For people with age-related asthma, air purifiers can be a game-changer in reducing the duration of asthma attacks. These devices can help remove airborne irritants that trigger asthma symptoms, such as dust mites, pollen, and pet dander. By improving indoor air quality, air purifiers can potentially shorten the duration and severity of asthma attacks.

HEPA Filters

One of the main features of air purifiers is their HEPA filters. These filters are designed to capture small particles like dust, pollen, and pet dander that can exacerbate asthma symptoms. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, HEPA filters can remove up to 99.97 percent of particles as small as 0.3 microns in size for an extended period of time. HEPA filters can also trap other harmful pollutants like mold spores and bacteria, making them an effective tool for improving indoor air quality and reducing the risk of respiratory infections.

Activated Carbon Filters

Another feature that some air purifiers have is activated carbon filters. These filters work by absorbing odors and chemicals that can worsen asthma symptoms. If you live in an area with high levels of pollution or near a busy road, an activated carbon filter could help absorb harmful gasses like nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Similarly, if you have pets or use cleaning products with strong scents, an activated carbon filter could help neutralize these odors, which can be particularly beneficial for individuals with asthma.

Consistent Use

To get the most benefit from an air purifier for age-related asthma, it’s important to use it consistently. You’ll want to run it continuously throughout the day in the room where you spend the most time. By doing so, you’ll be able to maintain a higher level of indoor air quality, helping reduce the triggers that worsen asthma symptoms. A study published in the Journal of Asthma found that using an air purifier consistently for six months led to significant improvements in asthma symptoms and lung function.

Treatment Options for Age-Related Asthma

Various treatment options are available to manage and control asthma symptoms.

Asthma Medicines

The primary treatment option for age-related asthma includes medications that help relieve symptoms and prevent attacks. These medicines include bronchodilators, which relax the muscles around the airways, making breathing easier. 


Corticosteroids are another type of medication commonly prescribed as a long-term treatment option for individuals with persistent asthma symptoms. They work by reducing inflammation throughout the body, including the airways. Corticosteroids can be taken orally or inhaled directly into the lungs using an inhaler device.

Severe Asthma Research Program

Individuals with severe asthma may require more specialized treatment. The Severe Asthma Research Program (SARP) provides resources for research studies on new treatments for severe asthma. SARP aims to improve understanding of severe asthma through research studies that focus on identifying new treatments to improve patient outcomes.

Maintaining Lung Function is Vital

Severe asthma can lead to a decline in lung function as you age, making it crucial to manage your symptoms and adhere to your treatment plan. As we age, our lung function naturally declines, but this process can be accelerated by uncontrolled asthma symptoms.

Asthma medicines reduce inflammation and open up the airways, helping maintain lung function over time. The most common medications used for asthma include inhaled corticosteroids, long-acting beta-agonists, leukotriene modifiers, and immunomodulators. These medications are designed to prevent or relieve asthma symptoms, such as wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. Avoiding cigarette smoke and respiratory infections can also help preserve lung function and prevent asthma from worsening.

Our Top Rated Air Purifiers

Alen Breathesmart 45i $429 Buy Now
Austin Air
Healthmate Plus
Air Purifier

$855 Buy Now
Air Purifier

$900 Buy Now
Classic 605
Air Purifier

$495 Buy Now
AirMega 400
Air Purifier

$450 Buy Now