Asthma in Adults Fact Sheet

October 2012

Asthma is a reversible obstructive lung disease, caused by increased reaction of the airways to various stimuli. It is a chronic inflammatory condition with acute exacerbations. Asthma can be a life-threatening disease if not properly managed.

  • In 2011, it was estimated that 25.9 million Americans currently have asthma, including 7.1 million children under 18. Of these, 13.2 million Americans (4.1 million children) had an asthma attack.1

  • Current asthma prevalence in adults ranged from 6.4% in Louisiana to 12.0% in Maine.2

  • In 2009, there were 3,388 deaths attributed to asthma – an age-adjusted rate of 1.1 per 100,000. Approximately 63% of these deaths occurred in women.3

  • The number and rate of hospital discharges for asthma peaked in 1995 and again in 2003. Since 2003, the number and rate of discharges have both decreased by 24%. During 2010, 439,000 discharges (14.3 per 10,000) were due to asthma.4

  • Close to 2.1 million emergency room visits were attributed to asthma in 2009.5

  • In 2008, asthma accounted for an estimated 14.2 million lost work days in adults.6

  • The annual direct health care cost of asthma is approximately $50.1 billion; indirect costs (e.g. lost productivity) add another $5.9 billion, for a total of $56.0 billion dollars.7

  • Asthma breathing problems usually happen in "episodes" or “attacks,” but the inflammation underlying asthma is continuous. An asthma episode is a series of events that result in narrowed airways. These include: swelling of the lining, tightening of the muscle, and increased secretion of mucus in the airway. The narrowed airway is responsible for the difficulty in breathing with the familiar "wheeze."

  • Asthma is characterized by excessive sensitivity of the lungs to various stimuli. Triggers range from viral infections to allergies, to irritating gases and particles in the air. Each person reacts differently to the factors that may trigger asthma, including:
    • respiratory infections and colds
    • cigarette smoke
    • allergic reactions to such allergens as pollen, mold, animal dander, feather, dust, food, and cockroaches
    • indoor and outdoor air pollutants, including ozone and particle pollution
    • exposure to cold air or sudden temperature change
    • excitement/stress
    • exercise
  • A study by the American Lung Association Asthma Clinical Research Center (ACRC) found that the inactivated influenza vaccine is safe to administer to adults and children with asthma, including those with severe asthma.8 Influenza causes substantial illness in adults and children with asthma requiring emergency room visits and hospitalization, and vaccination can mostly prevent influenza and its complications. Currently, 47.84% of adults and 51.0% of children with asthma receive the influenza vaccine.9


Sources:

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: National Center for Health Statistics, National Health Interview Survey Raw Data, 2009. Analysis by the American Lung Association Research and Program Services Division using SPSS and SUDAAN software.
2 Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey, 2009. Analysis by the American Lung Association Research and Program Services Division using SPSS and SUDAAN software.
3 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. CDC Wonder On-line Database, compiled from Compressed Mortality File 1999-2009 Series 20 No. 2O, 2012.
4 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: National Center for Health Statistics, National Hospital Discharge Survey, 1995-2010. Analysis by the American Lung Association Research and Health Education Division using SPSS software.
5 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: National Center for Health Statistics. National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, 2009. Analysis by the American Lung Association Research and Health Education Division using SPSS software.
6 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: National Center for Health Statistics, National Health Interview Survey Raw Data, 2011. Analysis by the American Lung Association Research and Health Education Division using SPSS and SUDAAN software.
7 Barnett SB, Nurmagambetov TA. Costs of Asthma in the Unites States: 2002-2007. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 2011; 127:145-52.
8 American Lung Association Asthma Clinical Research Centers. The Safety of Inactivated Influenza Vaccine in Adults and Children with Asthma. New England Journal of Medicine. 2001; 345 (21):1529-1536.
9 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: National Center for Health Statistics, National Health Interview Survey Raw Data, 2011. Analysis by the American Lung Association Research and Health Education Division using SPSS and SUDAAN software.