Can children outgrow asthma and/or allergies?

Children are unlikely to outgrow seasonal allergies. Seasonal allergies tend to start in childhood, peak in ages 20 to 40 and may improve with each decade after that. Many people outgrow their allergies, but only in the later decades of their lives, such as their 60s­­ to 80s.

Some children may outgrow asthma. Many children are diagnosed as having asthma after severe infections such as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and can appear as asthmatic for many years. Some will outgrow the diagnosis and never have a problem again, but some may have symptoms return later in life.

Asthma is a disease state in which the airways of the lung become inflamed and constricted. Basically the airways are hyper-responsive to certain triggers. There are many different triggers for asthma exacerbations. In young children, one of the big triggers is viral respiratory infections. Especially with infants that develop RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) infections, there is a strong tendency to have asthma symptoms with almost every cold or respiratory illness for the first several years of life. However, as the child gets older, they develop immunity to these illnesses and as a result seem to "outgrow" their asthma.

However, allergies are another big trigger for asthma. Usually, allergies are not "outgrown" but they may change their manifestation over time. For example, allergies might cause skin disease in younger children and then move into nasal symptoms and asthma. This type of asthma is usually a lifelong disease that must be controlled.

Asthma is a chronic state of hyper-responsiveness. While some children have asthmatic symptoms that clear up over the course of their adolescence, others have symptoms that worsen. The tendency to have overly sensitive airways usually remains. There is no way, unfortunately, to predict a child's future with asthma.

For allergies, it is erroneous to believe children outgrow them as they would a pair of shoes. However, allergies may improve over the course of time, especially during puberty.

Intermountain Registered Dietitians
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

How asthma affects children throughout their lifetimes varies. In some children, symptoms get worse over time. In other children, symptoms seem to go away as the lungs develop. Still, people who seem to have “outgrown” childhood asthma often have their symptoms reappear in adulthood. The bottom line? Even if symptoms go away, the tendency toward asthma is still there. That’s why people diagnosed with asthma—children and adults alike—should work with a doctor to match their treatment plan to their current condition.

Dr. Sande O. Okelo, MD

Children can outgrow asthma, particularly toddlers with asthma that is triggered only by viral respiratory infections (“colds” or upper respiratory infections). Approximately 80 percent of toddlers with this form of asthma will “outgrow” their asthma by 6 years of age.

Dr. Brian D. Gelbman, MD
Pulmonary Disease Specialist

Though the overall incidence of asthma in childhood is different for boys and girls, children can outgrow their asthma symptoms. Watch pulmonologist Brian Gelbman, MD, discuss asthma in childhood and what could trigger a recurrence in adulthood.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.