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Asthma in Adults Fact Sheet

February 2017

Asthma is a chronic lung disease that makes it harder to move air into and out of your lungs. Certain exposures to asthma triggers can cause asthma flare-ups. Asthma can be a life-threatening disease if not properly managed.

  • In 2015, it was estimated that 24.6 million Americans currently have asthma, including 6.2 million children under 18 years old. Of these, 12.1 million Americans (3.1 million children) had an asthma flare-up.1
  • Current asthma prevalence in adults ranged from 7.2 percent in Nebraska and New Jersey to 11.8 percent in Kentucky.2
  • In 2014, there were 3,651 deaths attributed to asthma—an age-adjusted rate of 1.1 per 100,000. Approximately 62 percent 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 percent. During 2010, 439,000 discharges (14.3 per 10,000) were due to asthma.4
  • Close to 1.8 million emergency room visits were attributed to asthma in 2010.5
  • In 2013, asthma accounted for an estimated 10.1 million lost work days among employed adults.6
  • The annual direct healthcare cost of asthma is approximately $50.1 billion; indirect costs (e.g. lost productivity) add another $5.9 billion for a total of $56 billion dollars.7
  • Asthma breathing problems usually happen in "episodes" or "flare-ups," 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 airway lining , tightening of the muscle and increased secretion of mucus in the airway. The narrowed airway makes breathing harder and creates the familiar "wheeze."
  • When an adult has asthma, their lungs are extra sensitive to certain stimuli, or "triggers." 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 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, 51 percent of adults and 58 percent 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, 2015. Analysis by the American Lung Association Epidemiology and Statistics Unit using SPSS software.
  2. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey, 2015. Analysis by the American Lung Association Epidemiology and Statistics Unit using SPSS software.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Health Statistics. National Vital Statistics Report. Deaths: Final Data for 2014. June 30, 2016; 65(04).
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Health Statistics. National Hospital Discharge Survey, 1995-2010. Analysis by the American Lung Association Epidemiology and Statistics Unit using SPSS software.
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Health Statistics. National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, 2010. Analysis by the American Lung Association Epidemiology and Statistics Unit using SPSS software.
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Health Statistics. National Health Interview Survey, 2013. Analysis by the American Lung Association Epidemiology and Statistics Unit using SPSS 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, 2015. Analysis by the American Lung Association Epidemiology and Statistics Unit using SPSS software.

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