Is Outgrowing Asthma Really Possible?
As someone who has suffered from asthma my entire life, I can remember the pediatrician telling my mother saying, "It is likely she’ll outgrow asthma someday."
Guess what? I didn’t.
I’m married to a man that had terrible asthma as a child. When he got to middle school, he was able to run cross country, without an inhaler. Three years ago, he signed up for a 5K, ran it without any training beforehand, and got third place.
"I thought you had asthma? How can you just run like that without training first?" I said to him. I have to run for weeks to even complete a 5K, and I’ve never even placed before.
"Oh, I outgrew my asthma a long time ago," he said.
Which got me thinking – can you outgrow your asthma? If so, how did my husband outgrow his, while I still struggle with mine, 30 years later?
The topic has been debated for some time – do children ever actually lose their asthma diagnosis?
According to James T. Li, M.D., a physician at Mayo Clinic, asthma symptoms that start in childhood can disappear later in life, but kids with severe asthma never outgrow it.
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Derek K. Johnson, a pediatric allergist, doesn’t think so. According to him, it is more likely that kids can become asymptomatic.
The "chronic stuff" in their lungs that cause symptoms doesn't go away. It is more likely that some children go into a period of asthma remission, which can resurface at any time of their lives.
Of course, this frustrated me to no right end. What made my husband’s asthma go into remission but not my own?
As it turns out, according to WebMD, there are multiple theories as to why some children continue to have asthma, whereas other kids will go into remission.
- Children who are symptomatic only during illness are more likely to go into remission./li>
- Young children who have allergies early in life tend to have asthma that continues, and possibly even worsens.
- Children with eczema or a family history of asthma are more likely to have asthma that continues.
- Children with severe symptoms after the age of 5 are less likely to have remission of their asthma symptoms.
Is Asthma Misdiagnosed?
Another reason some kids outgrow asthma? It's possible that they didn’t have asthma to begin with.
Asthma is often misdiagnosed by pediatrics. Why? It requires a pulmonary function test with spirometry to diagnose. This test enables the physician to see how the lungs are functioning and how severe the asthma is.
If a pulmonary function test is not performed, technically a “real” diagnosis of asthma cannot be given, although a lot of physicians will diagnose asthma based on symptoms.
Spirometry is not readily available in doctor’s offices, plus the test can be labor intensive for pediatric patients, so an asthma diagnosis is often given, when in fact the child may have sinusitis or esophageal reflux.
And what happens when the sinusitis or esophageal reflux improves? The so-called asthma-like symptoms improve as well.
If you’re also wondering "How did this person outgrow their asthma and not me?" Guess what – they probably didn’t outgrow their asthma. Their asthma is still there, but in remission.
Although I can't outgrow my asthma, I can at least find ways to improve the symptoms.