Updated 17 November 2017

The difference between mild, moderate and severe asthma

Your doctor will assess and classify the severity of your asthma according to the latest guidelines.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there are currently about 235 million people worldwide who suffer from asthma, and that in 2016 there were 383 000 deaths due to this disease.

Controlling asthma

An asthma attack occurs when the lining of the bronchial tubes swell. This causes the airways to narrow, which reduces the airflow in and out of the lungs.

According to the WHO the strongest risk factors for asthma are a combination of genetic predisposition with environmental exposure to inhaled substances and particles.

Asthma can be controlled with the help of medication and by avoiding triggers that irritate and inflame the airways.  

How severe is your asthma?

The treatment of your asthma is based on your severity level. This means that your doctor will assess and classify the severity according to the latest guidelines for the management of asthma in either adults and adolescents or children.

Asthma treatment involves a two-pronged approach: targeting chronic airway inflammation and relieving acute bronchial spasms.

Determining the severity

The following tables will help you (and your doctor) determine the severity of your or your child's asthma symptoms:

Table 1: Classification of severity of asthma in adults and adolescentsasthma

Table 2: Classification of severity of asthma in childrenasthma

Image credit: iStock


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Asthma Expert

Professor Keertan Dheda has received of several prestigious awards including the 2014 Oppenheimer Award, and has published over 160 peer-reviewed papers and holds 3 patents related to new TB diagnostic or infection control technologies. He serves on the editorial board of the journals PLoS One, the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Medicine, Lancet Respiratory Diseases and Nature Scientific Reports, amongst others.Read his full biography at the University of Cape Town Lung Institute

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