Location Select your location

Asthma & Children Fact Sheet

September 2014

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.

  • Asthma is one of the most common chronic disorders in childhood, currently affecting an estimated 7.1 million children under 18 years, of which 4.1 million suffered from an asthma attack or episode in 2011.1
  • An asthma episode is a series of events that results in narrowed airways. These include: swelling of the airway lining , tightening of the muscle surrounding the airways and increased secretion of mucus inside the airway. The narrowed airway causes difficulty breathing and the familiar "wheeze."
  • When a child 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 child reacts differently to the factors that may trigger asthma, including:
      • respiratory infections and colds
      • cigarette smoke
      • allergic reactions to allergens such 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
  • Secondhand smoke can cause serious harm to children. An estimated 400,000 to one million children with asthma have their condition worsened by exposure to secondhand smoke.2
  • Asthma can be a life-threatening disease if not properly managed. In 2011, 3,345 deaths were attributed to asthma. However, deaths due to asthma are rare among children. The number of deaths increases with age. In 2011, 169 children under 15 years old died from asthma compared to 633 adults over 85 years old.3
  • Asthma is the third leading cause of hospitalization among children under the age of 15 years. Approximately 29 percent of all asthma hospital discharges in 2010 were in those under 15, however only 20 percent of the U.S. population was less than 15 years old.4
  • In 2010, there were approximately 640,000 emergency room visits due to asthma in those under 15 years of age.5
  • Current asthma prevalence in children under 18 years old ranges from 6.4 percent in Nevada to 13.9 percent in the District of Columbia.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 $56.0 billion dollars.7
  • Asthma is one of the leading causes of school absenteeism;8 in 2008, asthma accounted for an estimated 14.4 million lost school days in children with an asthma flare-up in the previous year.9

For more information on asthma, please review the Asthma Morbidity and Mortality Trend Report or call the American Lung Association at 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872).

Related Links

These sites are not part of the American Lung Association website and we have no control over their content or availability.

SOURCES

  1. 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.
  2. California Environmental Protection Agency: Respiratory Health Effect of Passive Smoking, June 2005.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Health Statistics. CDC Wonder On-line Database, compiled from Compressed Mortality File 1999-2011 Series 20 No. 2Q, 2014.
  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, 2010. Analysis by the American Lung Association Research and Health Education Division using SPSS software.
  6. Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey, 2012. 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. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Healthy Youth! Health Topics: Asthma. August 14, 2009. Accessed on February 9, 2010.
  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: National Center for Health Statistics, National Health Interview Survey Raw Data, 2008. Analysis by the American Lung Association Research and Health Education Division using SPSS and SUDAAN software.

    Ask An Expert

    Questions about your lung health? Need help finding healthcare? Call 1-800-LUNGUSA.

    Get help
    We need your generous support

    Make a difference by delivering research, education and advocacy to those impacted by lung disease.

    Join the FORCE

    Lung cancer is the #1 cancer killer and we are determined to defeat it.

    Get involved
    Join the fight for healthy lungs and healthy air.
    Donate Now.