Asthma Attacks Declining Among U.S. Children

Asthma is a serious disease causing wheezing, difficulty breathing,  and coughing. Over a lifetime, it can cause permanent lung damage. About 16% of black children and 7% of white children have asthma. While we don’t know what causes asthma, we do know how to prevent asthma attacks or at least make them less severe. Today, children with asthma and their caregivers report fewer attacks, missed school days, and hospital visits. More children with asthma are learning to control their asthma using an asthma action plan.* Still, more than half of children with asthma had one or more attacks in 2016. Every year, 1 in 6 children with asthma visits the Emergency Department with about 1 in 20 children with asthma hospitalized for asthma.

  • Asthma affects about 1 in 12 children ages 0-17 in the U.S.
  • Asthma hospitalizations for children decreased by 50% from 2003 to 2013.
  • Despite this progress, 1 in 6 children with asthma still ends up in the Emergency Department each year.

ATLANTAFeb. 6, 2018 — Children with asthma in the U.S. are having fewer asthma attacks, missed school days, and visits to the hospital, according to a new Vital Signs report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Today’s report shows that the percentage of children with asthma who experienced one or more asthma attacks in the preceding 12 months declined from 2001 (61.7%) to 2016 (53.7%). Even so, approximately half of children with asthma had one or more asthma attacks in 2016.

“We are making progress – but healthcare providers, parents, caregivers, and schools can do more to help children avoid asthma attacks,” said CDC Acting Director Anne Schuchat, M.D. “Asthma attacks can be terrifying for children and their families. Over the past decade, we’ve identified asthma management actions that work – not alone but in combination. Now we need to scale up these efforts nationwide.”

Asthma is the most common chronic lung disease of childhood, affecting approximately 6 million children in the United States. Although asthma cannot be cured, asthma symptoms can usually be controlled by avoiding or reducing exposure to asthma triggers (allergens and irritants) and by following recommendations for appropriate medical care.

Asthma in U.S. children: Key findings
Today’s report shows that some children are more likely to have asthma than others, including boys, children ages 5-17 years, non-Hispanic black children, children of Puerto Rican descent, and children from low-income families. In 2016, asthma attacks were most common among the youngest children, 4 years old and under.

Other study findings:

  • Asthma hospitalizations for children with asthma declined from 9.6 percent in 2003 to only 4.7 percent in 2013.
  • The percentage of children who reported asthma-related missed school days also was lower in 2013 than it was in 2003.
  • More children with asthma are getting asthma action plans and being taught how to recognize the signs and symptoms of an asthma attack and how to respond quickly.
  • Despite this progress, 1 in 6 children with asthma still ends up in the emergency department and about 1 in 20 is hospitalized each year.

Asthma attacks in children: How can doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers help?
No single strategy is the magic bullet that prevents asthma attacks. But recent evidence from small CDC-funded projects show that a combination of actions can be highly effective:

  • Work with children and parents to determine the severity of each child’s asthma, to develop an action plan for each child, and to share the plan with families, schools, and others.
  • Teach children and parents how to manage asthma by using control and rescue medicine properly and avoiding asthma triggers such as tobacco smoke, mold, pet dander, and outdoor air pollution.
  • Work with community health workers, pharmacists, and other community providers to help ensure that children with asthma receive the services they need.

CDC’s efforts to control asthma
CDC launched the National Asthma Control Program in 1999. Its mission: helping people with asthma breathe easier. The program currently funds partners in 24 states and 1 territory to use data, science, communication, and evaluation to reach this goal.

In addition, CDC promotes proven medical management of asthma, based on CDC’s 6/18 initiative. Such management includes proven actions such as trigger reduction, guidelines-based medical management, and self-management education. The initiative also promotes flu and pneumonia vaccination for all children, improvements in indoor air quality through smoke-free air laws and policies, and partnering with healthcare providers and others to lower asthma costs through improved control.

Asthma-related hospitalizations and missed school days were fewer in 2013 than in 2003.

Children who were hospitalized  for asthma
Percent (%) hospitalized, ages 0-17 years
In 2003,  10% of children with asthma were hospitalized.
In 2013,  5% of children with asthma were hospitalized.

Children with asthma who missed school days
Percent (%) missing school, ages 5-17 years
In 2003, 61% of children with asthma missed school days.

In 2013, 49% of children with asthma missed school days.


Costs of asthma in the United States: 2002-2007

Background: The economic burden of asthma is an important measure of the effect of asthma on society. Although asthma is a costly illness, the total cost of asthma to society has not been estimated in more than a decade.

Objective: The purpose of this study is to provide the public with current estimates of the incremental direct medical costs and productivity losses due to morbidity and mortality from asthma at both the individual and national levels for the years 2002-2007.

Methods: Data came from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. Two-part models were used to estimate the incremental direct costs of asthma. The incremental number of days lost from work and school was estimated by negative binomial regressions and valued following the human capital approach. Published data were used to value lives lost with an underlying cause of asthma.

Results: Over the years 2002-2007, the incremental direct cost of asthma was $3,259 (2009 dollars) per person per year. The value of additional days lost attributable to asthma per year was approximately $301 for each worker and $93 for each student. For the most recent year available, 2007, the total incremental cost of asthma to society was $56 billion, with productivity losses due to morbidity accounting for $3.8 billion and productivity losses due to mortality accounting for $2.1 billion.

Conclusion: The current study finds that the estimated costs of asthma are substantial, which stresses the necessity for research and policy to work toward reducing the economic burden of asthma.

Asthma medication use among children with asthma in 2013.

Percent (%) of children with asthma who use medicine

More than half (55%) of children with asthma used control medication.

Twenty-five percent (25%) of children with asthma did not use control medication regularly as prescribed.

Thirty percent (30%) of children with asthma used control medication regularly as prescribed.

Sixty-eight percent (68%) of children with asthma used rescue medication.

About Vital Signs

Vital Signs is a report that appears as part of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly ReportVital Signs provides the latest data and information on key health indicators.

DOWNLOAD: Asthma in children Working together to get it under control  To read the entire Vital Signs report, visit

US Department of Health and Human Services

CDC works 24/7 protecting America’s health, safety and security. Whether disease start at home or abroad, are curable or preventable, chronic or acute, or from human activity or deliberate attack, CDC responds to America’s most pressing health threats. CDC is headquartered in Atlanta and has experts located throughout the United Statesand the world.

SOURCE Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)


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