I am blessed to have mild asthma, referred to by professionals as “mild intermittent” asthma. I wasn’t even diagnosed until I was in my 20s, although looking back, I can see I did have clear symptoms as a child. But having mild asthma is no reason not to get the right treatment or to not focus on control.
Even with mild intermittent asthma, it’s important to get the right treatment to keep your asthma under control and prevent frequent symptoms.
A Review of the Classifications of Asthma
Asthma is classified according to severity. Depending on the frequency of your asthma symptoms and how much they affect your life, as well as the condition of your airways and your risk of severe asthma attacks or other complications, your doctor will assign you to a level of asthma severity. This classification guides your doctor and you in how to treat your asthma. These are the different levels of asthma:
- (Mild) Intermittent
- Mild Persistent
- Moderate Persistent
- Severe Persistent
For a more detailed description of the more severe classifications of asthma, check out this page on our site: Classifying Asthma Severity
What Does It Mean to Have Mild, Intermittent Asthma?
If your asthma is classified as intermittent, consider yourself lucky! This is the best, most treatable type of asthma to have, and the kind least likely to interfere with daily living. It is also the most common classification of asthma.
When your asthma is mild, you have symptoms no more often than twice a week, often less. It is unlikely that your symptoms will interfere very often with daily life or keep you awake at night more than a couple times a month.
Also, with mild asthma, your airways are still quite healthy most of the time, and your peak flow readings or spirometry tests will generally be normal or close to normal when you are not in the throes of an asthma attack.
It is important to remember, though, that all people with asthma have some level of inflammation in their airways and you could have a severe asthma attack at any point in time. So be on guard for any acceleration in intensity of your asthma symptoms.
Treatment for Intermittent Asthma
As with most levels of asthma, the best treatment is prevention. Figure out what your asthma triggers are, and then work to avoid coming into contact with them as much as possible. This includes environmental substances such as:
- Tree, grass and weed pollens
- Mold spores
- Pet dander, urine or saliva
- Dust mites
- Insect droppings, especially cockroaches
- Certain foods, such as peanuts and tree nuts, eggs, cow’s milk, soy, wheat, fish, shellfish
- Strong odors or chemical fumes
- Certain atmospheric conditions arising from extreme weather
- Respiratory infections, such as colds and flu
Prevention won’t always work, though, so people who have mild asthma also need to have a quick-relief or rescue inhaler on hand. This is a type of short-acting bronchodilator, such as albuterol. This type of inhaler relaxes and opens up your airways within a few minutes, relieving your symptoms.
Most people with intermittent asthma do not need a daily controller medication, unless they are going through some type of temporary flare-up during allergy season or when ill with a cold or the flu. I can attest to this. Although there have been times when I was on a controller medication, I have gone years with just my rescue inhaler. In fact, since I moved to a high mountain town a year and half ago, my allergies have greatly reduced and I am doing just fine with my albuterol inhaler. I mostly use it only when doing strenuous physical exercises such as hiking or Zumba.
Asthma severity can fluctuate over the years. So, it is very possible that while you may be classified as mild right now, in years to come you could progress to a more persistent level, and then fluctuate back.
As severity fluctuates, so does treatment. This is why it’s important to keep in touch with your health care team. An Asthma Action Plan will also help guide your actions and assist you in identifying when asthma control is slipping and symptoms are becoming more (or less) persistent.