One in five children with asthma may find that their symptoms go away as they get older, according to a study published in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Boys, children with mild asthma and those without animal allergies were more likely to have their asthma symptoms disappear.
Asthma cannot be cured, but it may go into an inactive state called remission. According to background information in the study, previous research has found that many kids experience asthma remission between childhood and young adulthood. However, the authors noted that these previous studies have been limited by a number of factors—such as short follow-up periods and varying ages of children involved in a research project.
For this study, Swedish researchers followed 248 children with asthma from age 7 to 19. Each year clinicians measured the children’s lung function, asked about medication use and performed allergy tests to determine which allergens triggered each child’s symptoms.
By age 19, a little more than 1 in 5—21 percent—of the 205 children remaining in the study were considered to be in remission, as they had not experienced wheezing and had not used asthma medication for at least three years. (That was the definition used for this study. There is no medical standard for identifying when asthma is in remission, the authors noted.)
The study found that boys were more likely to see their asthma symptoms go away than were girls (26 percent and 14 percent, respectively). Children whose asthma was deemed severe at age 7 were less likely to go into remission than those whose asthma was milder at the start of the study.
Remission also was less likely for children who were allergic to furry animals. The researchers speculated that, unlike pollen, furry animals are around all year. Even a child who doesn’t live with a dog or cat can come into contact with other people whose clothes, cars or homes carry pet dander and fur.
Another notable finding: Children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy tended to see their asthma symptoms disappear. A possible explanation, the authors wrote, was that asthma caused by maternal smoking is not related to allergies and is thus more likely to go into remission than allergic asthma.
The study confirms that remission of childhood asthma is common in late adolescence. However, it’s also common for asthma that’s gone into remission to appear again later in adulthood, the authors wrote. Adult asthma rarely goes into remission.
The study’s findings may be useful in identifying which children are more at risk for persistent or periodic asthma, and thus should be followed closely even when their asthma seems to ease up.
“Special emphasis should be directed toward the clinical management and follow-up of children with sensitization to furred animals, more severe asthma and asthma among girls because these factors are associated with persistence,” the authors concluded.