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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.1 It causes repeated episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and nighttime or early morning coughing.2 During an asthma attack, airways become inflamed, making it hard to breathe. Asthma attacks can be mild, moderate, or severe—and even life threatening.1

Over 24 million Americans are currently living with asthma (1 in 12 children and 1 in 13 adults).3 In 2015, over 3,600 children and adults died from asthma.3

Economic Burden

In 2007, asthma cost the U.S. about $56 billion in medical costs, lost school and work days, and early deaths. The average yearly cost of caring for a person with asthma is roughly $3,300.4

Risk Factors

Certain populations are more likely to have asthma, such as those with:5

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A family history of asthma

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Certain allergic conditions

For people who have asthma, there are also triggers for attacks:5

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Smoking and secondhand smoke

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Occupational exposure to chemicals

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Certain respiratory conditions

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Other health conditions

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Indoor and outdoor environmental allergens

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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.

Promoting Access to Evidence-Based Treatments

The 2007 National Asthma Education and Prevention Program (NAEPP) Guidelines are evidence-based guidelines for asthma management that significantly improve asthma care. Asthma symptoms and health care use can be significantly reduced by following the NAEPP guidelines for medical management.

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

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CDC Asthma Surveillance Data

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

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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.

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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

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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.

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  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vital Signs: Asthma in the US. May 2011.
  5. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. What Causes Asthma? or Who Is at Risk for Asthma? Available at icon