Mild Intermittent Asthma: Classification for Treatment

Recognizing and Treating Mild Intermittent Asthma: The Least Severe Type

Senior man using asthma inhaler in doctor's office. Credit: Terry Vine / Getty Images

Mild intermittent asthma is the least severe type of asthma of the various types. People with this type of asthma typically have asthma symptoms that come and go. Usually, episodes occur twice a week or less, with nighttime symptoms occurring twice a month or less. Between episodes, people with mild intermittent asthma do not have any symptoms and their lungs function normally.

Asthma Classification Types

The different classification of asthma is based on the severity of the condition.

Classification can change over time and is difficult to diagnose and classify in children younger than 4 years old since symptoms may be different from asthma exhibited in older patients.

 When determining which classification to assign to your asthma, your doctor will consider the following:

  • Symptoms (difficulty breathing, wheezing, chest tightness, and coughing) prior to treatment. Severe asthma attacks are possible in any asthma classification, even mild intermittent asthma.
  • The results of a lung function test or pulmonary function test (to determine the amount and speed of air you can blow)

The National Asthma Education and Prevention Program has classified asthma into the following 4 categories:

  • Intermittent Asthma. Symptoms occur 2 days or less per week and do not interfere with normal activities. Nighttime symptoms occur 2 days or less per month and when not having an asthma attack, lung function tests are normal and vary little from morning to afternoon.
  • Mild Persistent Asthma. Symptoms occur more than 2 days a week but do not happen every day and asthma attacks interfere with normal daily activities. Nighttime symptoms occur 3 to 4 times a month. Lung function tests are normal when not having an attack and may vary a small amount from morning to afternoon.
  • Moderate Persistent Asthma. A daily occurrence of symptoms and a short-acting inhaler is used every day. Symptoms interfere with daily activities. Nighttime symptoms occur more than 1 time a week, but do not happen every day and lung function tests are abnormal and vary more than 30% from morning to afternoon.
  • Severe Persistent Asthma. Symptoms occur throughout each day and severely limit daily physical activities. Nighttime symptoms occur often, sometimes every night and lung function tests are abnormal and may vary greatly from morning to afternoon.

How Asthma Is Classified as Mild Intermittent

According to the National Guidelines for managing asthma, severity of asthma is classified as mild intermittent according to the following factors:

  • Frequency of symptoms (no more than 2 days per week)
  • Frequency of nighttime awakenings with asthma symptoms (no more than 2 times per month)
  • Use of a quick-relief inhaler (no more than 2 days/week)
  • How much asthma interferes with daily activities (not at all)
  • Peak flow readings (normal between asthma attacks)
  • Whether asthma flares require use or oral steroids (no more than once a year)

Treating Mild Intermittent Asthma

People with mild intermittent asthma do not need daily asthma medication. Instead, the doctor will usually prescribe a quick-relief bronchodilator, which is an inhaler that opens up the airways and is used only as needed (up to a maximum of four times in a 1-day period).

People with asthma may find that their severity of asthma fluctuates over the years. As severity fluctuates, so does medication and treatment, with the ultimate goal being to keep asthma under control.


"Needs Assessment Report 2007." National Heart, Lung, and Blood Advisory Council Asthma Expert Working Group. 

"How Is Asthma Diagnosed?" National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health. 

"Anti-Inflammatories: Leukotriene Modifiers." U.S. News & World Report. 

"Asthma: Diagnosis." Re, Inc.

"Fact Sheet: Treating Asthma." The American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology Task Force. The Allergy Report. 

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