Asthma symptoms often occur when the immune system responds to triggers, such as an allergen or infection. The immune system may contribute, but asthma is not an immune deficiency, and doctors do not consider it an autoimmune disease.

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The article below covers the role of the immune system and asthma, how asthma may affect people with weakened immune systems, and ways to treat and prevent asthma and immunodeficiency.

In a person with asthma, their immune system often reacts to a stimulus that triggers inflammation and narrowing of the airway.

Research continues on the exact role of the immune system and its links with asthma. While it does not contribute to the initial development of asthma, immunodeficiency may be a risk factor for having an asthma flare-up.

A study from 2019 indicated that people with certain immune deficiencies, such as primary immunodeficiency, are 1.70 times more likely to have a flare-up of asthma symptoms than those without immune deficiencies. Both the frequency and severity of symptoms may increase.

Learn more about immunodeficiency disorders work.

Asthma and autoimmune diseases cause inflammation in the body, but people do not consider asthma an autoimmune disease. Different parts of the immune system can trigger asthma and autoimmune conditions.

Autoimmune diseases develop when the immune system attacks healthy cells. At the same time, asthma occurs due to certain triggers activating inflammation and swelling in the bronchial tubes.

Another 2019 study suggested an association between allergic diseases, such as eczema and asthma, and autoimmune diseases.

This study found that certain autoimmune diseases were more common in people with asthma, including:

Research from 2018 showed evidence of granulomas — a cluster of white blood cells — in lung biopsies and specific antibodies in the mucus of people with severe asthma.

This research suggested the role of autoimmune disorders and their link to asthma. However, additional research is necessary to explore this possible association in further detail.

A compromised immune system appears to play a role in asthma symptoms’ frequency and severity.

A 2017 study indicated that people with asthma might develop more severe symptoms when they get sick with the flu due to weakened or compromised immune systems.

The study found that people with weakened immune systems may have a deficiency in cells that play a role in antiviral immunity. This deficiency may increase the risk of developing respiratory infections, such as bronchitis or pneumonia.

Moreover, some people with asthma take oral or inhaled corticosteroids, which can suppress the immune system. As a result, it is difficult to determine if increased respiratory infections occur due to an innate immune deficiency or a weakened immune system due to medication side effects.

Further research needs to continue to study the potential links between the two.

Experts continue to explore how untreated asthma can affect a person’s immune system. Damage from untreated asthma may lead to difficulties clearing infections and may result in a weakened immune system.

According to the World Health Organization, untreated asthma can lead to reduced lung growth in children or impaired lung function over time. These lung changes cause damage, which may weaken the body’s immune system and make someone more susceptible to infection.

A person may want to consider having an asthma action plan to manage symptoms and reduce flares in the long term. Doctors can also provide recommendations on improving immunity, such as eating a balanced diet and other lifestyle changes.

Learn more about certain foods to boost immunity.

While it may not be possible to prevent the development of asthma, there are several ways to reduce the severity of symptoms.

According to the American Lung Association, to prevent attacks and treat symptoms, people with asthma can consider the following:

  • Identify triggers: A person can keep a log of when asthma symptoms develop and try to identify the triggers. Once identified, they can reduce exposure to allergens. Read more about possible asthma triggers. It may be beneficial to schedule an appointment with an allergist or immunologist to better understand these triggers.
  • Take prescription medications: Various prescription medications may play a role in the treatment and prevention of asthma attacks, such as:
    • short-acting bronchodilators
    • long-acting bronchodilators
    • inhaled corticosteroids
    • biologics for severe asthmatics
  • Recognize and treat symptoms early: A person can begin to learn the symptoms of an asthma attack over time, how to treat them, and prevent any complications, such as:
  • Make lifestyle changes: Avoiding smoking, if possible, can prevent the worsening of asthma symptoms. Getting regular exercise and maintaining a moderate weight can also help.

Learn more about controlling asthma symptoms.

It is not always possible to prevent immunodeficiency, and treatment depends on the specific type of immune deficiency.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 400 immunodeficiency types have been discovered. Each condition varies in severity and treatment.

General management includes:

  • maintaining lifestyle habits, such as:
  • avoiding close physical contact with people that are sick, when possible
  • receiving annual vaccinations
  • taking antibiotics to treat certain infections
  • having immune system treatments, such as immunoglobulin replacement, as a medical professional recommends

Asthma symptoms often result from a response by the immune system to certain triggers. While the immune system contributes to these symptoms, asthma does not develop due to an immune deficiency.

Research explores possible links between asthma and immunodeficiency, autoimmune disorders, and weakened immune systems.

It is important that a person consult a doctor to manage their symptoms and avoid triggers of an asthma attack that could impact the immune system over time. They may want to consider following a medical professionals’ guidelines on protecting their immune system alongside treating asthma.