What Is Intermittent Asthma?

Asthma Types- Controlling Intermittent Asthma

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Question: What Is Intermittent Asthma?


According to the NHLBI Expert Panel Report 3 (EPR3): Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma intermittent asthma is one of the asthma severity levels. Levels of asthma severity are used to make management decisions and your asthma will be classified in one of the following categories based on your symptoms:

  • Intermittent
  • Mild Persistent
  • Moderate Persistent
  • Severe Persistent

Your doctor will tailor your treatment and determine your asthma control based on this classification. Sometimes parents and patients will assume that intermittent asthma means that these is no risk or that they do not need to monitor as carefully as with the other asthma levels, but this is not the case. While the prognosis of intermittent asthma is excellent and many patients will never need any additional treatment, you still need to make sure that you see an asthma educator or get appropriate asthma education, have an asthma action plan in case your symptoms worsen, and have regular follow-up with your doctor to make sure things have not changed.

How Is Asthma Classified As Intermittent Asthma?

Intermittent asthma is the most common and least severe type of asthma. People with intermittent asthma typically have asthma symptoms that come and go. Your asthma severity is classified as intermittent asthma when:

  • You have asthma symptoms two days per week or less.
  • You wake up from your asthma two nights per month or less.
  • You use your rescue inhaler two or fewer days per week.
  • Your asthma does not interfere with your daily activities.
  • You have a normal FEV1.

Treating Your Intermittent Asthma

With intermittent asthma, you do not need daily controller asthma medication.

Rather, your asthma doctor will usually prescribe a quick-relief rescue bronchodilator, such as albuterol, for the times when you develop asthma symptoms. Your doctor will want you to record how often you are needing your rescue inhaler.

If your quick-relief medication effectively treats symptoms and improves your lung function, you can continue to use as needed -- unless you begin needing to use your quick-relief medication more than two times per week or develop more symptoms. If you find your asthma severity worsening, it may be time to step up your asthma treatment. This is not uncommon, as people's asthma control may fluctuate over time.

You additionally need to look to see how well other asthma symptoms are doing. These could include:

  • Common symptoms such as how many times in the last week you or your child experienced chest tightness, cough, shortness of breath, or wheezing?
  • Nighttime awakenings- Awakening at night with chest tightness, cough, difficulty breathing, or wheezing is a sign of poorly controlled asthma. The more times that you do this the more poorly your asthma is controlled.

    Make sure to discuss these symptoms with your asthma doctor. If they do not bring it up then you should initiate the discussion with your doctor.

    Everyone should have an asthma action plan in order to achieve good asthma control. The plan will describe how you need to monitor all of these elements of control as well as provide specific recommendations about what you need to do if you need to contact your healthcare provider or just head to emergency department.


    National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Accessed: November 5, 2015. Expert Panel Report 3 (EPR3): Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma

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