Asthma Facts

Asthma is inflammation of the air passages resulting in the temporary narrowing of the airways that transport air from the nose and mouth to the lungs. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, wheezing, coughing and tightness in the chest. In the most severe cases, asthma can be deadly.

Unfortunately, there is not a cure for asthma, but it can be managed with proper prevention and treatment. People with asthma should avoid known allergens and respiratory irritants.

There has been a genetic component linked to asthma. Studies show that if only one parent has asthma of any type, there is a one in three chance that each child will have asthma. If both of the parents have asthma, there is a seven in 10 chance that the children will have asthma.

About 20 million Americans have asthma, including 9 million children. In fact, asthma is the most common chronic childhood illness. About half of all cases develop before the age of 10, and many children with asthma also have allergies.

Every day in America:

  • 40,000 people miss school or work due to asthma.
  • 30,000 people have an asthma attack.
  • 5,000 people visit the emergency room due to asthma.
  • 1,000 people are admitted to the hospital due to asthma.
  • 14 people die from asthma.

Asthma among Americans:

  • Asthma is the most common chronic condition among children.
  • Asthma is more common among adult women than adult men.
  • Asthma is more common among male children than female children.
  • Asthma is more common among children (7 to 10 percent) than adults (3 to 5 percent).
  • Nearly five million asthma sufferers are under age 18. It is the most common chronic childhood disease, affecting more than one child in 20.
  • Asthma is slightly more prevalent among African Americans than Caucasians.
  • Ethnic differences in asthma prevalence; morbidity and mortality are highly correlated with poverty, urban air quality, indoor allergens and lack of patient education and inadequate medical care .
  • There are more than 5,000 deaths due to asthma each year, many of which are avoidable with proper treatment and care. In addition, asthma is indicated as a “contributing factor” for nearly 7,000 other deaths each year.
  • More females die of asthma than males, and women account for nearly 65 percent of asthma deaths overall.
  • African Americans are three times more likely to die from asthma. African American Women have the highest asthma mortality rate of all groups, more than 2.5 times higher than Caucasian women.

Asthma Symptoms

Various asthma symptoms include the following.

  • Wheezing
    • usually begins suddenly
    • is episodic
    • may be worse at night or in early morning
    • aggravated by exposure to cold air
    • aggravated by exercise
    • aggravated by heartburn (reflux)
    • resolves spontaneously
    • relieved by bronchodilators (drugs that open the airways)
  • Cough with or without sputum (phlegm) production
  • Shortness of breath that is aggravated by exercise
  • Breathing that requires increased work
  • Intercostal retractions (pulling of the skin between the ribs when breathing)
  • Nasal flaring
  • Chest pain
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Abnormal breathing pattern, in which exhalation (breathing out) takes more than twice as long as inspiration (breathing in)
  • Breathing that temporarily stops

You should go to the Emergency Department if you experience extreme difficulty breathing, bluish color to the lips and face, severe anxiety due to shortness of breath, rapid pulse, sweating or decreased level of consciousness during an attack.

Asthma Testing

Tests for asthma may include lung function tests, chest X-ray, allergy skin or blood tests, arterial blood gas and eosinophil count (a type of white blood cell).

Asthma Treatment

Asthma is most often treated with various medications. A severe asthma attack requires a medical evaluation and may require hospitalization, oxygen and intravenous medications.

UT Medical Center’s Heart Lung Vascular Institute features an Asthma Clinic dedicated to assisting patients with more effective disease management. The Asthma Clinic now offers Bronchial Thermoplasty treatment for asthma patients 18 years or older who are not well controlled with standared asthma medications.

Asthma Resources