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Asthma Facts

  • Asthma is a chronic inflammation of the lung airways that causes coughing, chest tightness, wheezing or shortness of breath.
  • The number of Americans with asthma grows every year. Currently, 26 million Americans have asthma. Of the 26 million, 18.9 million are adults and 7.1 million are children.1
  • Asthma prevalence is higher in children (9.4 percent) than in adults (7.7 percent), and higher in females (9.2 percent) than males (7.0 percent).4
  • Patients with asthma reported 14.2 million visits to a doctor’s office and 1.3 million visits to hospital outpatient departments. 2
  • Asthma results in 439,000 hospitalizations and 1.8 million emergency room visits annually.2
  • Asthma is the most common chronic illness in childhood, accounting for 13.8 million missed school days each year. It also accounts for 14.2 million lost work days for adults.3
  • The estimated economic cost of asthma is $56 billion annually.4
  • Almost 3,600 people die of asthma each year, nearly half of whom are age 65 or older. Recent statistics show that half of people with asthma have at least one asthma attack each year, with children (57 percent) more likely to have an attack than adults (51 percent).2, 4
  • Asthma symptoms can be triggered by exposure to an allergen (such as ragweedpollenanimal dander or dust mites), irritants in the air (such as smoke, chemical fumes or strong odors) or extreme weather conditions. Exercise or an illness – particularly a respiratory illness or the flu – can also make you more susceptible. 
  • Asthma is often hereditary. 
  • Weather conditions such as extremely dry, wet or windy weather can worsen an asthma condition. 
  • Effective asthma treatment includes monitoring the disease with a peak flow meter, identifying and avoiding allergen triggers, using drug therapies including bronchodilators and anti-inflammatory agents, and developing an emergency plan for severe attacks. 
  • There are two types of asthma medications: long-term control and quick-relief medications. Long-term control medications are preventive, taken daily to achieve and maintain control of asthma symptoms. Quick-relief medications are used to treat asthma attacks. They relieve symptoms rapidly and are taken on an as-needed basis. 
  • One of the most effective medications for controlling asthma is inhaled corticosteroids, which are anti-inflammatory medications. Taken early and as directed, these well-tolerated and safe medications can improve asthma control and normalize lung function. 
  • Immunotherapy or allergy shots should be considered if asthma is triggered by exposure to unavoidable allergens, or if symptoms occur three days a week and more than two nights a month. The shots are especially helpful when symptoms occur year-round or are not easily controlled with medication. 
  • Allergists are the medical specialists with the most expertise in treating asthma. An allergist can find the source of your suffering and stop it. To find an allergist, visit


1. Asthma Facts: CDC'S National Asthma Control Program Grantees (CDC)
2. FastStats – Asthma (CDC)
3. AsthmaStats – Asthma-related Missed School Days among Children aged 5-17 Years (CDC)
4. Asthma Management and the Allergist: Better Outcomes at Lower Cost (ACAAI)

*Updated 4/22/16

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