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How Do I Know if my Asthma is Controlled?


Updated September 14, 2011

Question: How Do I Know if my Asthma is Controlled?
Answer: Many people overestimate the amount of control they have over their asthma. This is often because people get used to feeling a certain way as a result of asthma; they think that having asthma symptoms is normal. Since uncontrolled asthma can lead to loss of lung function, emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and even death, it is important for people to realize when their asthma is not controlled.

Recently, new national guidelines for the treatment of asthma were revised. These guidelines not only focus on a person’s current asthma symptoms, but also seek to prevent future asthma attacks, as well as to prevent the loss of lung function. The goals of asthma treatment are to minimize asthma symptoms, limit the use of rescue medicines (such as albuterol), and maintain normal activity levels such as work and school attendance, exercise, and other physical activities.

The asthma symptoms a person is experiencing is a good way to determine if their asthma is controlled. If asthma symptoms occur more than twice a week during the day, or more than twice a month at night, then asthma is not controlled. Lung function, as measured by spirometry, should be normal in a person with good asthma control.

A new aspect of asthma control involves the amount of asthma exacerbations a person has per year. In the past, if a person experienced minimal asthma symptoms and had normal lung function, their asthma would be considered under control, even if that person experienced a few asthma exacerbations per year. Based on the new guidelines, however, a person with two or more asthma exacerbations per year does not have controlled asthma.

People with asthma should see their personal physician regularly so that asthma control can be determined, and medications can be adjusted appropriately. Between doctor visits, people with asthma can answer a short questionnaire about their asthma symptoms, providing a good screening test to assess asthma control.

Find out about the best medicines for asthma.


Expert Panel Report 3 (EPR3): Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma. 2007. Accessed November 25, 2007.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this site is for educational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for personal care by a licensed physician. Please see your physician for diagnosis and treatment of any concerning symptoms or medical condition.

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