The Differences between Childhood and Adult-Onset Asthma

30 Jun
By Amelia Smith

The signs and symptoms of childhood and adult onset asthma are similar. The treatments are also alike. However, the challenges that children and adults face while dealing with the condition vary widely.

People of any age can develop asthma. For most people, asthma begins in early childhood. They experience their first episode around the age of 6 years. Millions of children below 18 years of age have asthma. It is one of the major causes of hospitalization in children today.

When a physician diagnoses the condition in people older than 20 years of age, it is known as adult-onset asthma. While it is not very common, almost 10%-20% of adults develop the condition when they are grown-up. Women have more chances of developing asthma after the age of 20. It may be due to hormonal changes. A vast majority of adults who have asthma also suffer from allergies. The condition may be due to the workplace or home irritants.

Here are some differences between childhood and adult onset asthma.

• Risk Factors of Childhood Asthma

The main risk factors associated with childhood-onset asthma are heredity causes, viral respiratory infections, allergies and tobacco exposure. Some of the symptoms of paediatric asthma are:

• Coughing • Wheezing • Congestion and Pain in the chest • Mucus secretion • Shortness of breath • Chest tightness • Difficulty in sleeping • Take some to recover from respiratory infections

Childhood asthma treatment should begin as early as possible. Left untreated, it can lead to unwanted lasting effects. For example, reduced energy, low stamina, and physically slow among more other issues.

The Differences between Childhood and Adult-Onset Asthma

Risk Factors for adult-onset asthma

The risk factors for adult-onset asthma are:

• Strenuous physical activity • Getting excited • Flu, cold or other viral infections • Anxiety or depression • Hormonal changes • Medications • Tobacco smoke, perfumes, chemicals, and cold air Some of the symptoms of adult asthma are: • Shortness of breath • Coughing, mostly at night • Wheezing • Difficulty in breathing • Pressure and tightness in the chest

Who are at more risk to develop adult-onset asthma?

The following people are more likely to develop adult-onset asthma:

• People who have just recovered from a cold or flu or other viral infections • People allergic to pets • Women experiencing hormonal changes, such as pregnancy or menopause • Women who are taking estrogen after menopause • People exposed to irritants, such as mold, tobacco smoke, dust, or perfume

Duration of Symptoms:

Children asthma patients have intermittent symptoms. For adults, symptoms are persistent, and a daily regimen of adult asthma treatment is needed to manage it better. Asthma symptoms may completely disappear during puberty for the children. However, these may reappear when they are around 20 years of age and disappear again. This cycle may continue well into their 30s and 40s.


The diagnosis of adult-onset asthma can be quite tricky. To accurately diagnose the condition, you must share with your doctor your symptoms, and the triggers that bring the symptoms. He or she will order some tests that will help identify if it is asthma. Another key difference is that adults are more likely to suffer from other health conditions for which they may be taking medications. It may have an effect on their asthma treatments. It is, therefore, important to share information about all the drugs that you are taking, with your doctor so that he or she can come up with an effective asthma treatment plan for you.


Both childhood and adult asthma treatment comprise long-term medications and quick-relief medications to treat the condition. Quick relief treatments for childhood and adult-onset asthma typically ease symptoms that are caused by an allergy attack. Long-term medications control swelling and inflammation in the airways to avoid an allergy attack. All asthma patients – children and adults – use a combination of both these medicines to manage asthma.

Conclusion: Though there are some differences between childhood and adult-onset asthma, the objective of the treatment is the same – avoid triggers, control symptoms and follow the action plan. Children having asthma may “outgrow” their condition after some time. But this might not be the case with adults who get asthma, as they might have to suffer from the problem for their entire life though it can be significantly controlled.


The following two tabs change content below.

Amelia Smith

Nutritionist, herbalist, health and medicine writer and yoga enthusiast, Amelia Smith, is a professional in the health, nutrition and diet industry.

Latest posts by Amelia Smith (see all)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *