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Management of Asthma Treatment in Older Adults


Diagnosis and treatment of asthma can be more complicated in people age 65 and older than in those who are younger. Doctors have to consider that older people:

  • Tend to have worse asthma symptoms and a higher risk of death from asthma than younger people do. 1
  • May have a history of smoking or have long-term respiratory diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) , which can make it hard to diagnose asthma.
  • Often have one or more other health conditions that can make asthma symptoms worse and complicate treatment, including sinusitis , heartburn , or heart failure . Some conditions, such as osteoporosis , can become worse when you use asthma medicines. Your doctor may prescribe asthma medicines that avoid making other medical problems worse and that interact the least with other medicines you may be taking.
  • May have difficulty performing lung function tests, which can make diagnosis and treatment more difficult. If you have trouble using a peak flow meter , it may be hard to know when lung function is decreasing. This can lead to delays in getting treatment and to undertreatment of the condition.
  • May be more likely to have side effects from asthma medicines or may be at risk for reactions between medicines they are taking.
  • May have trouble using inhalers properly.
  • May not always remember to take their medicines.



  1. Diette GB, et al. (2002). Asthma in older patients. Archives of Internal Medicine, 162(10): 1123–1132.


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Rohit K Katial, MD - Allergy and Immunology
Last Revised February 13, 2011

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