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Health Topics – Asthma

Over 24 million Americans are currently living with Asthma


Asthma is a chronic disease that affects the airways in the lungs. It causes repeated episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and nighttime or early morning coughing. During an asthma attack, airways become inflamed, making it hard to breathe. Asthma attacks can be mild, moderate, or severe—and even life threatening.

Based on recent data, over 24 million Americans are currently living with asthma. In 2017, patients with asthma accounted for around 1.5 million emergency department visits and an estimated 180,000 inpatient hospital stays. 29% of patients with asthma are children.

Economic Burden

In 2013, the total cost of asthma, including costs incurred by absenteeism and mortality is $81.9 billion.

Risk Factors

Certain populations are more likely to have asthma, such as those with:

A family history of asthma

Certain allergic conditions

For people who have asthma, there are also triggers for attacks

Physical exercise

Smoking and secondhand smoke

Occupational exposure to chemicals

Certain respiratory conditions

Other health conditions including  sinus infections and allergies

Exposure to chemicals such as cleaning and disinfection agents

Outdoor exposure such as pollen and air pollution

Severe weather events

Indoor exposures such as mold, dust mites, pests and pets

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CDC’s National Asthma Control Program (NACP)

NACP was created in 1999 to help the millions of people with asthma in the United States gain control over their disease. The program’s goals include reducing the number of deaths, hospitalizations, emergency department visits, school days or workdays missed, and limitations on activity due to asthma. The NACP collects data on state-specific levels to focus efforts and resources where they are needed.

The NACP leads national initiatives and provides state funding for a variety of activities focuses on surveillance, intervention, partnerships and evaluation. The NACP funds states, cities, school programs, and non-government organizations to help them improve surveillance of asthma, train health professionals, educate individuals with asthma and their families, and explain asthma to the public. The program has improved asthma treatment, management, and control in the U.S.

Expanding Access to Intensive Self-Management Education

Teaching people how to manage asthma on their own is one of the most important parts of controlling the disease nationwide. Everyone with asthma should develop an individualized asthma action plan with a doctor. In general, people with asthma aren’t getting action plans from their doctors. Intensive asthma self-management education can improve asthma symptom control for individuals whose asthma is not well-controlled with medical management based upon the NAEPP Guidelines.

Strategies for Addressing Asthma in Schools

CDC’s Strategies for Addressing Asthma in Schools guide provides a compilation of information and resources for implementing asthma programs in schools. Although it was designed for staff in state health departments, school systems with an interest in “asthma friendly schools” have found it to be useful.

Strategies for Addressing Asthma in Homes

CDC’s Strategies for Addressing Asthma in Homes guide defines core components of home visits (who visits, what education occurs in home, how the home environment is assessed, which/how linkages to care are beneficial). The guide also defines additional components that can augment the home visits and possibly overcome barriers that impede successful home-based strategies (such as social and housing factors).

Featured Resources

CDC’s EXHALE Technical Package for Asthma

The EXHALE technical package represents a select group of strategies based on the best available evidence to control asthma. It is a resource to inform decision-making in communities, organizations, and states, by identifying strategies with the greatest potential impact on controlling asthma. Each of the EXHALE strategies is proven to reduce asthma-related hospitalization, emergency department visits and health care costs.

These strategies are complementary and intended to work in combination to reinforce each other. Similarly, commitment, collaboration, and leadership from numerous sectors, including public health, health care, education, social services, and non-governmental organizations, can maximize the impact of this technical package.

The six strategies in EXHALE include:

  • Education on asthma self-management (E)
  • Extinguishing smoking and secondhand smoke (X)
  • Home visits for trigger reduction and asthma self-management education (H)
  • Achievement of guidelines-based medical management (A)
  • Linkages and coordination of care across settings (L)
  • Environmental policies or best practices to reduce asthma triggers from indoor, outdoor, and occupational sources (E)

CDC Asthma Surveillance Data

Asthma surveillance data including a collection of asthma data at both the national and the state level from multiple sources.

CDC Chronic Disease Indicators (CDI)

Uniformly defined state and selected metropolitan-level data for chronic diseases and risk factors that have a substantial impact on public health.

National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network – Asthma

Asthma prevalence data among adults and children in every state can that can be displayed in dynamic, customizable map, chart, and table views.

Featured Tools

CDC’s Virtual Healthy School Interactive Tool

Explore current and historical state-level data on tobacco use prevention and control and highlights the importance of nebulizers and breathing treatments in schools.