According to the American Lung Association, asthma is a chronic lung disease that makes it harder to move air into and out of your lungs. Certain exposures to asthma triggers can cause asthma flare-ups. Asthma can be a life-threatening disease if not properly managed.
Asthma is the most common chronic condition among children, currently affecting an estimated 6.1 million children under 18 years, of which 3.5 million suffered from an asthma attack or episode in 2016.
An asthma episode is a series of events that result in narrowed airways. These include swelling of the airway lining, tightening of the muscle surrounding the airways and increased secretion of mucus inside the airway. The narrowed airway causes difficulty breathing and the familiar “wheeze.”
When a child has asthma, their lungs are extra sensitive to certain stimuli, or “triggers.” Triggers range from viral infections to allergies, to irritating gases and particles in the air.
Each child reacts differently to the factors that may trigger asthma, including:
Respiratory infections and colds
Allergic reactions to allergens such as pollen, mold, animal dander, feather, dust, food and cockroaches
Indoor and outdoor air pollutants, including ozone and particle pollution
Exposure to cold air or sudden temperature change
Secondhand smoke can cause serious harm to children. An estimated 400,000 to one million children with asthma have their condition worsened by exposure to secondhand smoke.
Asthma can be a life-threatening disease if not properly managed. In 2016, 3,651 deaths were attributed to asthma. However, deaths due to asthma are rare among children. The number of deaths increases with age. In 2016, 169 children under 15 years old died of asthma compared to 554 adults over 85 years old.
Asthma is the third leading cause of hospitalization among children under the age of 15 years. Approximately 29 percent of all asthma hospital discharges in 2010 were in those under 15, however, only 20 percent of the U.S. population was less than 15 years old. In 2010, there were approximately 640,000 emergency room visits due to asthma in those under 15 years of age.
Current asthma prevalence in children under 18 years old ranges from 5.6 percent in Oregon to 12.0 percent in Connecticut among the 31 states with data for 2016.
The annual direct healthcare cost of asthma is approximately $50.1 billion; indirect costs (e.g., lost productivity) add another $5.9 billion for a total of $56.0 billion dollars.
Asthma is one of the leading causes of school absenteeism; in 2013, asthma accounted for an estimated 13.8 million lost school days in school-aged children with an asthma flare-up in the previous year.
Local pediatric pulmonologist Dr. Brian Mahmood discussed childhood asthma on ABC-7 at Four with Stephanie Valle.