Classification of Asthma - Adventist HealthCare

Classification of Asthma

Topic Overview

The National Asthma Education and Prevention Program has classified asthma as:

  • Intermittent.
  • Mild persistent.
  • Moderate persistent.
  • Severe persistent.

These classifications are based on severity, which is determined by symptoms and lung function tests. You should be assigned to the most severe category in which any feature occurs.footnote 1

  • Classification is based on symptoms before treatment.
  • Classification may change over time.
  • A person in any category can have severe asthma attacks.
  • Asthma in children younger than age 4 can be hard to diagnose. And its symptoms may be different from asthma in older children or adults.

Intermittent asthma

Asthma is considered intermittent if without treatment any of the following are true:

  • Symptoms (difficulty breathing, wheezing, chest tightness, and coughing):
    • Occur on fewer than 2 days a week.
    • Do not interfere with normal activities.
  • Nighttime symptoms occur on fewer than 2 days a month.
  • Lung function tests (spirometry and peak expiratory flow[PEF]) are normal when the person is not having an asthma attack. The results of these tests are 80% or more of the expected value and vary little (PEF varies less than 20%) from morning to afternoon.

Mild persistent asthma

Asthma is considered mild persistent if without treatment any of the following are true:

  • Symptoms occur on more than 2 days a week but do not occur every day.
  • Attacks interfere with daily activities.
  • Nighttime symptoms occur 3 to 4 times a month.
  • Lung function tests are normal when the person is not having an asthma attack. The results of these tests are 80% or more of the expected value and may vary a small amount (PEF varies 20% to 30%) from morning to afternoon.

Moderate persistent asthma

Asthma is considered moderate persistent if without treatment any of the following are true:

  • Symptoms occur daily. Inhaled short-acting asthma medication is used every day.
  • Symptoms interfere with daily activities.
  • Nighttime symptoms occur more than 1 time a week, but do not happen every day.
  • Lung function tests are abnormal (more than 60% to less than 80% of the expected value), and PEF varies more than 30% from morning to afternoon.

Severe persistent asthma

Asthma is considered severe persistent if without treatment any of the following are true:

  • Symptoms:
    • Occur throughout each day.
    • Severely limit daily physical activities.
  • Nighttime symptoms occur often, sometimes every night.
  • Lung function tests are abnormal (60% or less of expected value), and PEF varies more than 30% from morning to afternoon.

If you or your child has persistent asthma (mild, moderate, or severe) and is receiving appropriate therapy, the goal of treatment should be to control symptoms so that they occur only as frequently as those of intermittent asthma.

Health Tools

Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.

Actionsets are designed to help people take an active role in managing a health condition.

References

Citations

  1. National Institutes of Health (2007). National Asthma Education and Prevention Program Expert Panel Report 3: Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma (NIH Publication No. 08–5846). Available online: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/asthma/index.htm.

Credits

Current as ofSeptember 5, 2018

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: John Pope, MD, MPH - Pediatrics
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Elizabeth T. Russo, MD - Internal Medicine

Disclaimer: The information contained in this website, and its associated websites, is provided as a benefit to the local community, and the Internet community in general; it does not constitute medical advice. We try to provide quality information, but we make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to this website and its associated sites. As medical advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each patient and healthcare is constantly changing, nothing provided herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of a competent physician. Furthermore, in providing this service, Adventist HealthCare does not condone or support all of the content covered in this site. As an Adventist health care organization, Adventist HealthCare acts in accordance with the ethical and religious directives for Adventist health care services.

Find a Doctor

Find an Adventist HealthCare affiliated doctor by calling our FREE physician referral service at 800-642-0101 or by searching our online physician directory.

View Doctors

Set Your Location

Setting your location helps us to show you nearby providers and locations based on your healthcare needs.