Impact of non-drug therapies on asthma control: A systematic review of the literature

Eur J Gen Pract. 2019 Apr;25(2):65-76. doi: 10.1080/13814788.2019.1574742. Epub 2019 Mar 8.


Background: Despite growing access to effective therapies, asthma control still needs improvement. Many non-drug factors, such as allergens, air pollutants and stress also affect asthma control and patient quality of life, but an overview of the effectiveness of non-drug interventions on asthma control was lacking.

Objectives: To identify non-drug interventions likely to improve asthma control.

Methods: A systematic review of the available literature in Medline and the Cochrane Library was conducted in March 2017, without any time limit. Initial searching identified 884 potentially relevant clinical trial reports, literature reviews and meta-analyses, which were screened for inclusion using criteria of quality, relevance, and reporting outcomes based on asthma control.

Results: Eighty-two publications met the inclusion criteria. In general, the quality of the studies was low. Patient education programmes (22 studies) significantly improved asthma control. Multifaceted interventions (10 studies), which combined patient education programmes with decreasing exposure to indoor allergens and pollutants, significantly improved asthma control based on clinically relevant outcomes. Renovating homes to reduce exposure to allergens and indoor pollutants improved control (two studies). Air filtration systems (five studies) were effective, especially in children exposed to second-hand smoke. Most measures attempting to reduce exposure to dust mites were ineffective (five studies). Dietary interventions (eight studies) were ineffective. Promoting physical activity (five studies) tended to yield positive results, but the results did not attain significance.

Conclusion: Twenty-six interventions were effective in asthma control. Simultaneously combining several action plans, each focusing on different aspects of asthma management, seems most likely to be effective.

Keywords: Asthma; chronic disease; systematic review; therapy.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Air Filters
  • Air Pollutants / adverse effects
  • Allergens / immunology
  • Asthma / etiology
  • Asthma / therapy*
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Quality of Life*
  • Stress, Psychological / complications


  • Air Pollutants
  • Allergens