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What Should I Do if a Cold Makes my Asthma Worse?


Updated June 16, 2014

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

Question: What Should I Do if a Cold Makes my Asthma Worse?

I have a number of patients with intermittent asthma who do very well until they have a cold and asthma together. When a cold and asthma occur together, and you feel forced to use your rescue inhaler more frequently, you may wonder if you need to step up your treatment.

Many patients with a cold and asthma suffer from sleepless nights and a worsening of asthma symptoms such as:

In this situation, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute guidelines for asthma, taking a short-acting beta agonist -- like albuterol -- every 4 to 6 hours for a day (or longer, if you have discussed it with your physician) is OK as long as symptoms are mild. In general, these cold and asthma symptoms are associated with a viral respiratory tract infection or the common cold.

If, however, cold and asthma symptoms require you to increase your quick relief medications more frequently than every 6 weeks, you probably need to step up your asthma treatment.

If you have a history of severe worsening of your asthma with a cold, you may want to talk with your doctor about taking steroids at the start of a cold.


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

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