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What is asthma?

Asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases affecting people of all ages, ethnicities and backgrounds. People with asthma have sensitive airways that narrow as a reaction to triggers such as exercise, pollutants and cold air. When an asthma attack occurs, it can cause wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and shortness of breath. Although asthma cannot be cured, it can usually be controlled by medication.

Asthma statistics

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 13 people have asthma[1]
  • Approximately 24 million people in the United States have asthma, including over 6 million children[2]
  • Each year, asthma causes more than 14 million doctor visits and 439,000 hospital stays
  • The annual cost of asthma is about $56 billion[3]

What can trigger asthma?

  • Viral colds and infections–Respiratory infections often trigger asthma episodes
  • Irritants – Smoke, air pollution, strong odors, aerosol sprays, paint and other chemicals
  • Weather – Cold air especially can trigger an attack. Wear a mask or scarf
  • Allergies – Pets, pollen, grass, mold, penicillin, food, insects, etc.
  • Emotion – Stress can trigger an asthma episode, which can be intensified by anxiety and panic caused by a feeling of suffocation. Remain calm and breathe easily
  • Exercise – Swimming seems to trigger asthma the least

How can you control asthma?

  • Respond quickly to asthma attack warning signs with the inhalation medication prescribed by your doctor
  • Manage exposure to potential triggers
  • Make two treatment plans with your doctor:
    • One for daily treatment
    • One for emergencies

What are some treatment goals?

  • To no longer accept asthma symptoms as normal
  • To no longer miss work or school due to asthma episodes
  • To fully participate in physical activities
  • To sleep through the night without coughing and wheezing
  • To avoid emergency room visits or hospitalization
  • To experience little or no side effects from the medications

What questions can you ask your doctor?

  • What is the name and dosage of my medicine, and how long should I take it? What should I do if I forget to take it?
  • How will I be able to tell that the medicine is working, and what should I do if it doesn’t seem to be working?
  • Are there possible side effects, and what should I do about them?
  • What warning signs should I look for?
  • What should I do in an emergency?
    • What information should I have ready?
    • Whom should I call for help?

Download the list of questions here, an easy take away!


[1] Centers for Disease Control. Asthma. (Retrieved March 14,2016)

[2] National Center for Health Statistics. Centers for Disease Control. Asthma. 2014. (Retrieved April 25, 2017)

[3] CDC. National Surveillance of Asthma: United States, 2001-2010. (Retrieved April 25, 2017)

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