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What Is Your Asthma Severity Classification?

Determining Your Asthma Severity Can Help You Get Control Of Your Asthma


Updated June 06, 2010

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

By reviewing the table below, you can classify your asthma severity based on NHLBI guidelines as either:

Your asthma severity is based upon the criteria described below. For example, if you are waking up two nights per month with cough or feeling short of breath, your asthma is in the intermittent asthma severity classification. If have symptoms two days per week, use your rescue inhaler two times per week, have a normal FEV1 between exacerbations, but wake up at night three times per week, your asthma severity is moderate persistent. Your asthma treatment will, in part, be based on your asthma severity.

Interpreting the Asthma Severity Table

The table uses the following criteria to determine asthma severity:
  • Symptoms: How many days in the past week have you experienced chest tightness, cough, shortness of breath, or wheezing?

  • Nighttime awakenings: How often due you wake up at night with chest tightness, cough, shortness of breath, or wheezing?

  • Rescue inhaler use: How many times in the last week have you used your rescue inhaler?

  • FEV1: What is your current lung function measured with spirometry? Unlike the other above symptoms, your FEV1 will not be readily available at home; you will need to ask your doctor when pulmonary function tests are performed.


National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Accessed: May 20, 2010. Expert Panel Report 3 (EPR3): Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma

Clinical Pulmonary Function Testing, Exercise Testing, and Disability Evaluation. In Chest Medicine: Essentials Of Pulmonary And Critical Care Medicine. Editors: Ronald B. George, Richard W. Light, Richard A. Matthay, Michael A. Matthay. May 2005, 5th edition.

Asthma Severity

IntermittentMild PersistentModerate PersistentSevere Persistent
Symptoms2 or less days per weekMore than 2 days per weekDailyThroughout the day
Nighttime Awakenings2 X's per month or less3-4 X's per monthMore than once per week but not nightlyNightly
Rescue Inhaler Use2 or less days per weekMore than 2 days per week, but not dailyDailySeveral times per day
Interference With Normal ActivityNoneMinor limitationSome limitationExtremely limited
Lung FunctionFEV1 >80% predicted and normal between exacerbationsFEV1 >80% predictedFEV1 60-80% predictedFEV1 less than 60% predicted
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