Do you find yourself short of breath with chest tightness? Wheezing? Coughing at night? If you're reaching your golden years and find yourself experiencing a host of respiratory symptoms, you could be one of the many senior citizens dealing with asthma, even if you don't yet know it. This chronic condition affecting is common--but it often frequently goes undiagnosed.

A Hidden Problem

The problem when it comes to seniors' health is that asthma symptoms can often be masked by other illnesses. In addition, in older people, the course asthma takes can be different than in children, making it harder to recognize. Finally, some seniors just assume the symptoms they are experiencing are common with aging and don't realize they may need to seek medical care and treatment for these issues.

Asthma Symptoms

Do you find yourself short of breath with chest tightness? Wheezing? Coughing at night? These are some of the typical asthma symptoms, although they can also be indicative of other health problems. Therefore, it is always important to be evaluated by your doctor to get a professional opinion. Asthma is a chronic inflammation of the airways, and is commonly caused by allergens and other irritating substances that trigger such a response. Some of the other conditions that can occur simultaneously and make it more difficult to diagnose asthma include sinusitis, reflux, chronic bronchitis, congestive heart failure, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.[i]

A Variety of Age Differences

There can also be many other differences in older patients who have asthma that distinguish them from their younger counterparts. For instance, while there is a clear relationship between allergies and asthma in younger folks, as you age the connection doesn't seem as obvious. Seniors also don't always respond as well to using a bronchodilator, so you may need to take a different approach to get relief from the airway constriction and inflammation.

Finally, health concerns such as osteoporosis, memory loss and heart conditions can complicate the course of treating your symptoms if you are older. This can occur for several reasons. First, using corticosteroids, which can effectively manage asthma symptoms, can also increase your predisposition for bone weakness and injuries. Second, if you have memory difficulties, it may be hard to remember to take your medication as prescribed. Finally, some asthma medications increase your risk for heart arrhythmias, so if you have cardiac issues at the same time, this can pose a serious danger.

A Personalized Treatment Plan

The good news is that despite all of the challenges that exist, with the help of a doctor experienced in senior health, you can get effective help for your symptoms. Some seniors find that increasing their fluid intake, including adding drinks enriched with calcium to counteract the asthma medication and osteoporosis risk and also to thin mucus in the lungs, can help on several levels.[ii] The experts recommend talking with your doctor about your specific concerns, needs and other health conditions in order to develop the most effective plan to manage your condition and feel better.

[i] American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Senior and Asthma article looking at the connection between age and this chronic condition is available online at


[ii] AAAAI Senior and Asthma article looking at the role of nutrition in managing asthma can be accessed online at