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Asthma Fact Sheet | Basic Asthma Information
Allergy Fact Sheet | Basic Types and Prevalence


  • Asthma is a chronic inflammation of the lung airways that causes coughing, chest tightness, wheezing or shortness of breath.
  • An estimated 22 million Americans have asthma; 6.5 million are under 18.
  • Asthma mortality is 4,000 deaths per year.
  • Mortality is especially high among Puerto Ricans and African-Americans. Puerto Ricans are four times more likely and African Americans are three times more likely to die of asthma than Caucasians.
  • Asthma results in 497,000 hospitalizations and 1.8 million emergency room visits.
  • Asthma is the most common chronic illness in childhood, accounting for 12.8 million missed school days each year. It also accounts for 10.1 million lost work days for adults.
  • The estimated economic cost of asthma is $19.7 billion annually.
  • Direct medical expenditures associated with asthma, including hospital care, physicians’ services and medications, are estimated at $14.7 billion annually.
  • Indirect medical expenditures, including lost work days for adults suffering from asthma or caring for children with asthma and lost future earnings from premature deaths associated with asthma, total $5 billion annually.
  • Triggers that can initiate an asthma attack include allergens such as pollen, dust, animal dander, drugs and food additives, as well as viral respiratory infections and physical exertion. Obesity, use of acetaminophen and exposure to formaldehyde and other volatile organic substances are identified as new risk factors for asthma.
  • 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, normalize lung function, and possibly prevent irreversible injury to lung airways.
  • Combination therapy (inhaled corticosteroid plus a long-acting beta2-agonist) is the preferred treatment for asthma when inhaled corticosteroids alone do not control the disease.
  • Immunotherapy or allergy vaccinations should be considered if asthma is triggered by exposure to unavoidable allergens, if symptoms occur year-round or during a majority of the year, or if it is difficult to control symptoms with medication.

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