Understanding the Terms ‘Acute’ and ‘Chronic’ When It Comes to Asthma

Asthma is regarded as a chronic illness. However, when they momentarily worsen, as they would during an asthma attack, the symptoms may be deemed acute.

A respiratory ailment called asthma is characterised by airway constriction and inflammation. Numerous recurrent symptoms may arise from this, such as:
  • wheezing
  • shortness of breath
  • chest tightness
  • coughing
Since asthma is a chronic ailment, it needs to be managed continuously over an extended period. Asthma attacks, or asthma exacerbations, can, nonetheless, be severe. These episodes of severe symptoms usually start abruptly and need to be treated right away.

Here are some typical causes of acute asthma exacerbations, along with management advice for asthma sufferers.

What’s acute asthma exacerbation?

An abrupt and severe worsening of your asthma symptoms is known as an acute asthma exacerbation.

Breathing becomes challenging during an acute asthma exacerbation due to inflammation and narrowing of the lung's airways. It's also possible for other asthma symptoms to get worse, such as wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath.

Additionally, you might discover that at these times, your regular medications—like your inhaler—provide less assistance.

What causes acute exacerbation?

There is typically a specific trigger for an acute asthma exacerbation, such as:
  • exposure to allergens such as mould, dander from pets, or pollen
  • respiratory illnesses, including the flu or cold
  • exposure to irritants in the environment, such as smoke, harsh scents, or air pollution
  • strenuous exercise
  • emotional stress or anxiety
  • not taking your asthma prescription drugs as suggested
  • neglecting or failing to notice the early signs of deteriorating asthma
The causes of asthma might differ greatly from person to person. If you're not sure what yours are, think about maintaining a symptom diary to see if any certain meals, hobbies, or settings frequently cause an acute flare-up of your symptoms.

Does asthma ever go away?

Although asthma usually lasts a lifetime, there may be periods when your symptoms get better and get worse. Your symptoms may sometimes get less severe overall, but your airways will probably still be susceptible to certain triggers.

Even at times when your symptoms are at their lowest, following the treatment plan that your doctor ordered can help avoid an acute exacerbation.

Managing chronic asthma

Asthma, like many other chronic illnesses, needs to be managed continuously. Your symptoms and their severity will probably determine the course of treatment, which may include medication, lifestyle modifications, and close observation.

Medical treatment

Asthma therapy options include the following:
  • Bronchodilators: Albuterol and other short-acting bronchodilators ease symptoms quickly by letting the muscles surrounding the airways relax, which opens them up and improves airflow. These are beneficial before exercise or during acute symptoms.
  • Long-acting bronchodilators: To maintain open airways over time, you might require these frequently. To produce both bronchodilation and anti-inflammatory effects, they are frequently combined with inhaled corticosteroids in a single inhaler, known as a combination inhaler.
  • Inhaled corticosteroids: These anti-inflammatory drugs aid in lowering inflammation of the airways. They work well as a prophylactic to lessen the occurrence and intensity of asthma attacks.
  • Leukotriene modifiers: These drugs prevent leukotrienes from acting, which causes inflammation and airway constriction.
  • Biologic therapies: Biologic therapy may be necessary for severe asthma to target particular immune responses that contribute to acute asthma exacerbations.

Lifestyle adjustments

  • Healthy diet: Consuming a well-balanced diet full of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains can help with asthma symptoms and support general health.
  • Regular exercise: Engaging in physical activity can enhance your lung function and general fitness. Just remember to consult your care team before beginning a new fitness programme.
  • Stress management: If stress tends to aggravate your asthma, you may find it helpful to practise stress-reduction methods like deep breathing, meditation, and yoga.
  • Trigger management: Asthma episodes can be avoided by recognising and avoiding your triggers, which may include cold air, exercise, tobacco, allergens, and strong odours.


  • Monitor peak flow: Monitoring your lung function regularly using peak flow metres can help you recognise increasing symptoms sooner.
  • Regular doctors’ visits: It's advisable to have routine follow-up consultations with a medical practitioner to evaluate how well your asthma is controlled, modify your medication as needed, and discuss any other issues.

The bottom line

Since asthma is a chronic illness, it needs to be managed over time. On the other hand, an acute exacerbation of asthma, or a sudden worsening of symptoms, is possible.

Although the majority of asthmatics will never fully recover from their illness, their symptoms can gradually become better.


How do I know if my asthma is acute or chronic?

Unlike acute asthma, which strikes suddenly and unexpectedly, chronic asthma often develops gradually over time.

Can chronic asthma be cured?

There is no cure for asthma

Is asthma a lifelong disease?

Asthma is a chronic (or lifelong) disease

Can asthma go away with exercise?

Exercise cannot cure asthma

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