The most common kinds of asthma are mild intermittent asthma and mild persistent asthma. Asthma is a chronic condition that affects a person’s airways. It often develops during childhood, although adults can develop it too.

The American Lung Association report that asthma is the most common chronic condition in children. It is also common in adults. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America estimate that 25 million Americans have asthma.

When an individual has asthma, their airways can become swollen and inflamed. This may lead to coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, and difficulty breathing.

Although the symptoms of asthma are generally more or less the same, asthma can vary in severity and persistence. Asthma can range from mild and intermittent, to severe and persistent.

Asthma symptoms are generally more or less the same, but asthma can vary in severity and persistence. Asthma can range from mild and intermittent to severe and persistent.

Research suggests that up to 70% of all people with asthma have mild persistent asthma.

Keep reading to learn more about mild asthma and the different ways in which doctors classify and treat asthma.

A woman uses her inhaler for mild persistent asthma while on a hike.Share on Pinterest
People with asthma can use an inhaler to help manage their symptoms.

Asthma is an inflammatory condition that affects a person’s airways.

As one study explains, when the airways are chronically inflamed, they can become hyper-responsive to specific triggers, which causes them to swell. This swelling can make it hard for oxygen to reach a person’s lungs.

In a person with asthma, swollen airways have associations with some common asthma symptoms. These include:

  • wheezing
  • breathlessness
  • tightness in the chest
  • coughing
  • increased mucus production

Flare-ups or asthma attacks occur when a person’s asthma symptoms become severe.

Not all flare-ups are dangerous, although many people find them scary. However, some flares can be life threatening. This occurs when a person’s airways are so swollen that their body is not receiving enough oxygen.

An individual who experiences a severe flare-up needs urgent medical attention.

A person is likely to have mild, persistent asthma if their symptoms are as follows:

  • they show daytime symptoms more than twice per week, but less than once per day
  • flare-ups sometimes affect their physical activity
  • they experience nighttime symptoms more than twice per month
  • their actual FEV1 value (the amount of air a person can force from their lungs in 1 second) is greater than or equal to 80% of their expected FEV1 value
  • their PEF (peak expiratory flow) variability is 20–30%

To diagnose asthma, a doctor will ask the individual to describe their symptoms. They may also ask the individual if their symptoms worsen when they have exposure to some common asthma triggers.

The doctor is also likely to:

  • examine the individual’s lower respiratory tract for signs of wheezing
  • measure the individual’s lung function (spirometry)
  • ask the individual to measure their PEF variability over an extended period

All of this information can help the doctor assess the severity and persistence of a person’s asthma.

Learn more about the types of asthma and how doctors diagnose them here.

It can be hard for a person to predict when an asthma flare will occur. Over time, however, a person with asthma may notice that certain environmental factors and activities trigger their flares.

One research paper lists the following common asthma triggers:

  • dust, dusting, and vacuum cleaning
  • smoking
  • smoke, smog, and air pollution
  • coughing
  • exercise
  • animals and feathers
  • humidity, damp places, and mold
  • grass, weeds, and tree pollen
  • cold air and air conditioning
  • cleaning products
  • perfume, hairspray, and air fresheners
  • strong odors
  • stress and other strong emotions

When a doctor is treating a person’s asthma, they can choose from a range of medications. What they prescribe will depend on which type of asthma a person has.

For example, one study explains that doctors often consider short-acting beta-2 agonists appropriate first-line treatments for mild intermittent asthma.

A doctor will typically recommend inhaled corticosteroid (ICS) therapy as the first-line of treatment if a person has mild persistent asthma.

ICS therapy works by reducing inflammation in the airways and is effective at preventing flare-ups. People usually administer it using an inhaler.

There is no universal consensus on how medical health professionals should classify different kinds of asthma.

One older study notes that the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom have all used different classification systems for asthma.

This section will use the asthma classification system developed by the US National Asthma Education and Prevention Program. This system takes into account an individual’s asthma symptoms and lung function before receiving any treatment.

When a doctor evaluates a person’s asthma symptoms, they will ask for information about the following:

  • the frequency and severity of daytime symptoms
  • the frequency and severity of flare-ups
  • the frequency of nighttime symptoms

When a physician evaluates a person’s lung function, they will typically take two different measurements.

The first measurement looks at the amount of air that a person can force out of their lungs in one second. This is a person’s FEV1 value.

A person’s actual FEV1 value is often a percentage of their expected FEV1 value. For example, someone’s actual FEV1 value might be 90% of their expected FEV1 value.

A doctor bases a person’s expected FEV1 value on their age, race, height, and gender.

The second measurement looks at the variation in the rate at which a person can expel air from their lungs. This is known as peak expiratory flow (PEF) variability.

The following information and percentages come from a study on categorizing asthma.

Severe persistent

A person is likely to have severe persistent asthma if:

  • they continually show daytime symptoms
  • they frequently experience flare-ups
  • they must limit their physical activity
  • they often experience nighttime symptoms
  • their actual FEV1 value is less than or equal to 60% of their expected FEV1 value
  • their PEF variability is greater than 30%

Moderate persistent

A person is likely to have moderate persistent asthma if:

  • they show daytime symptoms every day
  • they experience flare-ups at least twice per week
  • flare-ups affect their physical activity
  • they experience nighttime symptoms more than once per week
  • their actual FEV1 value is between 60% and 80% of their expected FEV1 value
  • their PEF variability is greater than 30%

Mild persistent

A person is likely to have mild persistent asthma if:

  • they show daytime symptoms more than twice per week, but less than once per day
  • flare-ups sometimes affect their physical activity
  • they experience nighttime symptoms more than twice per month
  • their actual FEV1 value is greater than or equal to 80% of their expected FEV1 value
  • their PEF variability is between 20% and 30%

Mild intermittent

A person is likely to have mild intermittent asthma if:

  • they show daytime symptoms at most twice per week
  • they show no symptoms between flare-ups
  • their flare-ups are brief
  • they experience nighttime symptoms at most twice per month
  • their actual FEV1 value is at least 80% of their expected FEV1 value
  • their PEF variability is less than 20%

Asthma is a common inflammatory condition that affects a person’s airways. If left untreated, it can be disruptive, and, sometimes, dangerous.

An individual who thinks that they may have asthma should seek the advice of a medical health professional.

A doctor can diagnose asthma relatively easily, and treatment options are usually quite effective.