Is Asthma Curable?

Many people with asthma wonder if it’s curable. Asthma is a chronic medical condition that causes symptoms like wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and coughing. It affects the airways in the lungs, causing inflammation and tightness.

Because asthma is a chronic disease, there is no cure. While there’s currently no cure for asthma, symptoms can be managed and controlled. This article discusses ways to treat, prevent, and manage asthma symptoms, including medications and home remedies.

Person using asthma inhaler at home

MixMedia / Getty Images

Is Asthma Curable?

Asthma is a chronic condition that is not curable. A child diagnosed with asthma may have fewer or different symptoms as they age, but that doesn't mean they have completely "outgrown it" or that it might not return. It's also possible that they were misdiagnosed and their wheezing was not due to asthma.

Many people continue to experience asthma after childhood. Of the 25 million people in the U.S. with asthma, almost 20 million are adults. People may be diagnosed with asthma for the first time as adults (adult-onset asthma) or have asthma symptoms disappear after childhood but return decades later.

However, asthma is highly treatable. Early diagnosis, preventive measures, and regular treatment can help to control asthma symptoms. 

Asthma triggers (such as pollen, dust, smoke, chemicals, cold air, intense exercise, pets, mold, and pests) can make asthma symptoms worse. This can cause an asthma attack, also known as an asthma flare-up or asthma episode.

Managing Asthma

There are several ways to effectively manage asthma symptoms, including taking prescribed medication, making an asthma action plan, and using natural remedies. 

Medication

If you have asthma, your doctor might prescribe medications to help your airways stay open and relaxed. Other medications are meant to help with inflammation and swelling.

Quick-Relief Medications

Quick-relief asthma medications, usually delivered through a rescue inhaler, are used to treat symptoms quickly during an asthma attack. Also called “bronchodilators” because they work to relax and open the airways, these prescribed medications are typically short-acting beta-agonists like albuterol and levalbuterol.

People with asthma often carry rescue inhalers with them wherever they go in case they have an asthma flare-up.

Long-Term Asthma Control Medications

Long-term asthma control medications, also called controller medications, are used on an ongoing basis to prevent asthma symptoms. The most common controller medications are corticosteroids (such as fluticasone and beclomethasone), which have anti-inflammatory properties to reduce swelling in the airways.

Make an Asthma Action Plan

An asthma action plan serves as a how-to guide on preventing, managing, and treating your asthma symptoms. You can use it to monitor your own symptoms as well as to provide important information for others. 

An asthma action plan should include information such as:

  • How to know if you’re in the green (mild—no symptoms), yellow (moderate—experiencing symptoms, asthma getting worse), or red (severe symptoms/crisis—emergency help needed) zone in terms of your asthma symptoms
  • Asthma triggers
  • Asthma medications, including dosage and instructions on administering them 
  • Signs and symptoms of an asthma flare-up
  • Medical history
  • Allergies
  • Emergency contacts
  • Transportation details

If you have asthma, the American Lung Association recommends that you put together an asthma action plan with your healthcare provider. It can be distributed to your family, friends, co-workers, emergency department medical staff, and anyone else who might need to help you during an asthma episode.

If your child has asthma, you can share their asthma action plan with their teachers and school administrators as well.

Natural Remedies

In addition to taking prescribed medications, there are some natural remedies for asthma. Here are some home remedies for asthma symptoms to try.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture has been used in both China and Western countries to treat symptoms of asthma. The traditional method is to insert very thin needles at specific points on the body, which, in theory, directs energy flow in the body.

There is some limited evidence from clinical trials that acupuncture could help to improve lung function and reduce the need for asthma medications. However, the results are too inconclusive to determine the overall effectiveness of acupuncture as an asthma treatment. 

If you decide to try acupuncture, make sure you go to a qualified practitioner.

Caffeine

Caffeine is related to theophylline, a bronchodilator that's used to treat asthma symptoms. This has led some people to wonder whether a cup of coffee or two in the morning could help open their airways. 

A review of older studies found that in one study, drinking coffee improved airway function in people with mild to moderate asthma for up to four hours. However, the review concluded that caffeine’s effectiveness in managing asthma symptoms is limited.

Dietary Changes and Weight Loss

Healthy lifestyle habits, such as nutritious diets, exercise, and weight loss, can play a role in reducing asthma symptoms. In one review, researchers suggest that weight loss can improve exercise tolerance and reduce the severity of symptoms in certain people with asthma.

Breathing Techniques

Because asthma causes the airways to narrow and tighten, some people use breathing techniques and exercises to manage symptoms and improve breath control. One review concludes that breathing exercises can be useful as an adjuvant (additional) treatment for people with asthma who also take prescribed medications and use inhalers.

Black Seed (Nigella sativa)

Nigella sativa seeds, also known as black seeds, have been used as an herbal medicine (usually in the form of black seed oil) to treat asthma-related inflammation. One review suggests that black seed oil can play a role in reducing airway inflammation. However, the authors argue that the clinical trials so far were too small to reach any definite conclusion.

Ask Your Doctor

Before using any natural or home remedy for asthma, consult your doctor to make sure it’s safe for you. Don’t stop taking your medications as prescribed before you begin any other treatment.

Related: Using Acupuncture for Asthma Symptoms

Use a Peak Flow Meter

One of the best ways to manage your asthma symptoms is to avoid your asthma triggers in the first place. If you’re not sure what your asthma triggers are, you can monitor your symptoms and patterns with a peak flow meter

A peak flow meter is a device that assesses your lung function by measuring how well air flows from your lungs. It’s inexpensive, portable, and easy to use. Older children and adults can use a standard peak flow meter, while young children with asthma should use a low range peak flow meter. 

The American Lung Association recommends that people with asthma measure and chart their peak flow rate twice a day, at the same time each day. Over time, you might notice patterns. 

For example, your asthma symptoms might act up during certain seasons or in response to particular triggers (such as pollen, pet dander, exercise, or even stress). This will help you avoid triggers when you can to stop asthma flare-ups before they begin. 

When to See a Doctor

Whether you’ve already been diagnosed or are experiencing symptoms for the first time, it can be helpful to talk to your doctor about asthma. Here are some of the questions you can ask your healthcare provider about managing your asthma effectively:

  • What steps should I be taking to manage my asthma?
  • What should I do to prevent an asthma flare-up?
  • Am I taking my asthma medication correctly?
  • Should I see a specialist, such as an allergist (a physician specializing in allergies and asthma)?
  • How can I find out if my workplace or home is causing my asthma symptoms?
  • How can I avoid asthma triggers?
  • What can I do to learn more about asthma?

Seek Emergency Help

In severe cases, asthma can be serious and even fatal. Left untreated, an asthma episode can lead to respiratory failure and death. Seek emergency help if you have any of the following symptoms: 


  • Extremely rapid breathing
  • Difficulty walking or talking due to shortness of breath
  • Chest retractions (the skin between ribs pulls in and out with each breath)
  • Severe chest pain 
  • Panic or agitation
  • Color changes in the face, nails, or fingertips (cyanosis)
  • Uncontrollable coughing


Summary

Asthma affects the airways in the lungs, causing symptoms like wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath. Asthma is a chronic disease that is not curable. However, it can be treated with prescribed medications, including both quick-relief medications and controller medications.

People with asthma should also develop an asthma action plan with a healthcare provider to help them monitor and manage their condition. Natural remedies such as breathing techniques may be discussed as add-on treatments.

People with asthma should talk to a doctor if their symptoms get worse and seek emergency medical treatment for severe asthma flare-ups.

A Word From Verywell

While asthma isn’t curable, it’s highly treatable. By monitoring your triggers and taking asthma medications as prescribed, you can prevent and manage many symptoms of asthma. Talk to your doctor about how to manage your condition, and seek emergency medical treatment if your symptoms get worse.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What causes asthma?

    There’s no single cause for asthma symptoms. Anyone of any age can have asthma. However, several factors can increase your risk of having asthma, including genetics, allergies, a history of smoking, certain childhood illnesses, and exposure to irritants and pollutants in the environment, home, or workplace.

  • Why can't asthma be cured?

    Asthma is a chronic condition. It can’t be cured entirely. In part, this is because asthma has no single cause. Symptoms are often worsened by our own immune response to common triggers, such as pollutants, allergens, and irritants.

    While it’s not curable, asthma symptoms can be controlled and managed effectively with medications, an asthma action plan, and careful monitoring.

  • Should I use an inhaler every day?

    If you have to use a rescue inhaler more than twice a week, it may be a sign that your asthma is poorly controlled.

    However, if you’ve been prescribed a controller medication that you take with an inhaler, you should take it every day as prescribed. Always consult your doctor about when and how often to take your asthma medications.

Was this page helpful?
19 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute. Asthma.

  2. University of Utah Health. Can asthma be cured?

  3. Environmental Protection Agency. Do children outgrow asthma?

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most recent national asthma data.

  5. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Adult onset asthma.

  6. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. What causes or triggers asthma?

  7. MedlinePlus. Asthma - quick-relief drugs.

  8. MedlinePlus. Asthma - control drugs.

  9. American Lung Association. Create an asthma action plan.

  10. Li M, Zhang X, Bao H, Li C, Zhang P. Acupuncture for asthma: Protocol for a systematic reviewMedicine (Baltimore). 2017;96(26):e7296. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000007296

  11. Welsh EJ, Bara A, Barley E, Cates CJ. Caffeine for asthmaCochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010;2010(1):CD001112. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD001112.pub2

  12. Trunk-Black Juel C, Ali Z, Nilas L, Suppli Urlik C. Asthma and obesity: does weight loss improve asthma control? a systematic review. J Asthma Allergy. 2012;5:21-26. doi:10.2147/JAA.S32232

  13. Thomas M, Bruton A. Breathing exercises for asthma. Breathe. 2014;10:312-322. doi:10.1183/20734735.008414

  14. Koshak A, Koshak E, Heinrich M. Medicinal benefits of Nigella sativa in bronchial asthma: A literature reviewSaudi Pharm J. 2017;25(8):1130-1136. doi:10.1016/j.jsps.2017.07.002

  15. American Lung Association. Measuring your peak flow rate.

  16. American Lung Association. Questions to ask your doctor about asthma.

  17. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. What are the symptoms of asthma?

  18. American Lung Association. Asthma risk factors.

  19. American Lung Association. Assess and control your asthma.