Adult-onset asthma is asthma that develops in adulthood. In most cases, people develop asthma during childhood, though it can arise at any age.

According to the American Lung Association (ALA), .

Asthma is a chronic lung disease that leads to problems breathing. It causes narrowing and inflammation of the airways and increased mucus production.

In this article, we provide an overview of adult-onset asthma, including its possible causes, symptoms, and treatments.

People can treat adult-onset asthma with a combination of lifestyle changes and medications. Everyone has their own treatment plan with asthma.

Adults are more likely than children to have other medical conditions as well, which is a consideration when developing an asthma treatment plan.

A comprehensive treatment plan often includes:


Treatment for most types of asthma includes bronchodilators. Different types of bronchodilators are available, including long-acting and fast-acting ones. Both types can play a role in the management of asthma.

Fast-acting bronchodilators, such as albuterol, work by relaxing the muscles of the airways. As the muscles relax, the airways widen, making breathing easier. People take fast-acting bronchodilators via an inhaler or through a nebulizer. The medications reduce sudden symptoms, such as wheezing and shortness of breath.

People can also use long-acting bronchodilators to manage adult-onset asthma. These drugs also relax the airways, but they last longer than fast-acting inhalers. Instead of treating sudden symptoms, they prevent symptoms.


In some instances, people can also use inhalers that contain corticosteroids to treat adult-onset asthma. Steroids decrease airway inflammation.

Inhalers that contain corticosteroids do not treat sudden symptoms. Instead, they decrease the frequency of symptoms.

In some cases, treatment includes oral steroids. However, oral steroids may increase blood sugar levels and possibly worsen other conditions, such as glaucoma and osteoporosis, which can occur in adulthood.

Quitting smoking

One of the most important factors that influences the severity of the disease is cigarette smoking.

A 2014 looked at the factors affecting asthma severity in 128 adults with new onset of adult asthma.

After two years, researchers assessed changes in asthma severity, using the Global Initiative for Asthma Score. They noticed the following changes:

  • asthma severity increased in 13.3% of the people
  • severity decreased in 41.4% of people
  • cigarette smoking predicted the worsening of symptoms