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Asthma & Children 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.

  • Asthma is the most common chronic condition among children,1 currently affecting an estimated 6.2 million children under 18 years, of which 3.1 million suffered from an asthma attack or episode in 2015.2
  • 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.3
  • Asthma can be a life-threatening disease if not properly managed. In 2014, 3,651 deaths were attributed to asthma. However, deaths due to asthma are rare among children. The number of deaths increases with age. In 2014, 161 children under 15 years old died from asthma compared to 650 adults over 85 years old.4
  • 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.5
  • In 2010, there were approximately 640,000 emergency room visits due to asthma in those under 15 years of age.6
  • Current asthma prevalence in children under 18 years old ranges from 5.8 percent in Nevada to 12.1 percent in Massachusetts among the 31 states with data for 2015.7
  • 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.8
  • Asthma is one of the leading causes of school absenteeism;9 in 2013, asthma accounted for an estimated 13.8 million lost school days in school-aged children with an asthma flare-up in the previous year.10

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. National Survey of Children's Health. NSCH 2011/12. Data query from the Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative, Data Resource Center for Child and Adolescent Health website.
  2. 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.
  3. California Environmental Protection Agency. Respiratory Health Effect of Passive Smoking, June 2005.
  4. 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).
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Barnett SB, Nurmagambetov TA. Costs of Asthma in the Unites States: 2002-2007. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 2011; 127:145-52.
  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Healthy Schools. Chronic Conditions: Asthma and Schools. June 17, 2015.
  10. 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.

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