Facts About Asthma

Asthma is a chronic disease characterized by repeated episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and nighttime or early morning coughing. Asthma attacks are caused by lung inflammation and a sudden narrowing of the lungs' small airways in response to asthma triggers.

The statistics

Every year, more than half of the estimated 25 million Americans diagnosed with asthma suffer at least one acute attack, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Asthma flare-ups — which can be unpleasant, frightening, and sometimes life-threatening — lead to approximately 2 million emergency room visits, 10 million outpatient visits, and 100 million days of restricted activity every year.

The direct medical costs for acute asthma care, the lost days of school and work, and the greatly reduced quality of life all contribute to the growing burden of uncontrolled asthma in the United States.

In Pennsylvania, the asthma burden is especially acute in children and other special populations, such as African-Americans, females, people with low income, and people with limited education.

In the Pittsburgh region, asthma is diagnosed at about the same rate as the national average. In 2014, nearly 2,000 children were seen in the Emergency Department and nearly 1,000 children were admitted to Children’s Hospital for asthma attacks. 

Prevention is key

Asthma cannot be cured, but many of these asthma attacks could be prevented, and the frequency and the severity of asthma attacks and other symptoms could be reduced. The keys to becoming symptom-free with asthma are taking the proper medications and avoiding asthma “triggers.”

Improved asthma control involves:

  • Taking anti-inflammatory and bronchodilating medications according to a doctor’s plan
  • Avoiding contact with environmental triggers such as cockroaches, dust mites, furry pets, mold, tobacco smoke, outdoor pollution, and certain chemicals.
  • Periodic lung function testing will make sure your child is on the right amount of medication for his or her asthma

We know these basic asthma control methods work because national and international groups of asthma experts have recommended them in treatment guidelines that are based on exhaustive reviews of evidence found in hundreds of large clinical studies.