Asthma and Allergy

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General Asthma Information

Asthma & Allergy Week

There are many triggers for asthma, including environmental allergic substances like pollen and mold spores. The major breakthrough for asthma care occurred when asthma was discovered to be an inflammatory disease. This changed the way the disease was treated. Instead of limiting treatment to medications that dilate the airways, guidelines advocate for treatments that decrease inflammation. To maintain good control of asthma and prevent symptoms, among the major goals of therapy are maintaining normal activity levels, including exercise, and preserving normal or near-normal lung function. The overall strategy is to use a stepwise approach based on the level of asthma severity. Inhaled beta agonist bronchodilators (“relievers”) used on an as-needed basis are recommended for patients with very mild asthma, who are mostly healthy between episodes. Patients with more frequent symptoms are treated with the addition of an anti-inflammatory agent (“controllers”) used on a scheduled basis, in addition to use of an inhaled beta-agonist on an as-needed basis. For patients with even more severe disease and during acute exacerbations, addition of oral corticosteroids is appropriate. Equally important, preventive strategies should be put in place to minimize or completely avoid exposure to known environmental exposures that trigger asthma in the home or outdoors.

Despite these strategies, patients with severe asthma remain poorly controlled and unfortunately suffer significant morbidity and mortality. Several governmental agencies have been charged with surveillance for asthma, including the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s National Asthma Education and Prevention Program (NAEPP), Department of Health and Human Services (Healthy People 2010), as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Data on asthma outcomes published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that about 15 million American adults suffer from asthma, and more than one million have severe asthma. Last year, the CDC’s report on death rates showed that respiratory diseases, including asthma, chronic bronchitis and emphysema, exceeded strokes and rank as the third leading cause of death in the U.S. The trend toward adverse outcomes is disproportionately high and rising among minority and impoverished populations. 

Importantly, asthma is the most common chronic disease of childhood and leads to more than 12 million missed school days per year. Surprisingly, despite the well-documented prevalence and adverse effects of asthma on individuals of all ages, public concern regarding asthma is lacking. In parallel to public indifference, federal support for research, education and awareness activities has lagged.

Source: Serpil Erzurum, MD, Chair, ATS Assembly on Allergy, Immunology and Inflammation


Four Facts About Asthma

  • More than 20 million children and adults live with asthma all over the U.S., making it one of the most common and costly diseases
  • 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.
    - 11 people die from asthma.
  • Low income and minority children bear the heaviest burden of asthma, including death.
  • The cost of childhood asthma exceeds $8 billion in direct treatment costs and $10 billion in indirect costs (missed work, school days)