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. Health professionals 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 underlying asthma.
  • Often have one or more other health conditions that can make asthma symptoms worse and complicate treatment, including sinusitis, heartburn, COPD, or heart failure. Some conditions, such as osteoporosis, can become worse when you use asthma medications. Your health professional may prescribe asthma medications that avoid making other medical problems worse and that interact the least with other medications 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 difficult to determine when lung function is decreasing. This can lead to delays in seeking treatment and to undertreatment of the condition.
  • May be more likely to have side effects from asthma medications or may be at risk for reactions between medications they are taking.
  • May have difficulty using inhalers properly and remembering to take medications.


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

Last Updated: April 21, 2009

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