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World Asthma Day - May 3

World Asthma Day is organized by the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA), a World Health Organization collaborative organization founded in 1993. It is held annually to raise awareness of Asthma worldwide, and how those battling the condition can best equip themselves.

Asthma is a long-term inflammatory disease that affects the airways of the lungs and can cause symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. 

Although there is no permanent cure for asthma, it is possible to manage, reduce, and prevent asthma attacks. According to GINA, efforts are made to ensure that international respiratory communities work together with patients and health care providers to implement asthma care solutions both, locally and globally.

GINA has chosen “Closing Gaps in Asthma Care” as this year’s World Asthma Day theme.


What is Asthma?

Asthma is a disease that affects your lungs. It is one of the most common long-term diseases of children, but adults can have asthma, too. Asthma causes wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and coughing at night or early in the morning. If you have asthma, you have it all the time, but you will have asthma attacks only when something bothers your lungs.

We don’t know all the things that can cause asthma, but we do know that genetic, environmental, and occupational factors have been linked to developing asthma.

If someone in your immediate family has asthma, you are more likely to have it. “Atopy,” the genetic tendency to develop an allergic disease, can play a big part in developing allergic asthma. However, not all asthma is allergic asthma.

Being exposed to things in the environment, like mold or dampness, some allergens such as dust mites, and secondhand tobacco smoke have been linked to developing asthma. Air pollution and viral lung infection may also lead to asthma.

Occupational asthma occurs when someone who never had asthma develops it because he or she is exposed to something at work. This can happen if you develop an allergy to something at work such as mold or if you are exposed to irritants such as wood dust or chemicals at work over and over at lower levels or all at once at higher levels.


How Common is Asthma?

Asthma affects people around the world and across all age groups, genders, and ethnicities. These statistics show how asthma is represented among several patient populations.

  • According to the 2018 Global Asthma Report, asthma affects more than 339 million people around the world.
  • Asthma often runs in families, and your chances of having it are higher if one or both of your parents has it.
  • The United Kingdom has particularly high asthma rates out of European countries, and asthma-associated deaths increased by 33% between 2008 and 2018.
National Asthma Statistics
  • Roughly 1 in 13 Americans have asthma, which is about 25 million people. (Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, 2021)
  • Asthma frequently forces Americans to miss school days and time at work: about 14 million days per year for both kids and adults. (American College of Asthma, Allergy & Immunology, 2018)
  • Asthma is most prevalent in the Ohio valley and Northeast mid-Atlantic regions of the U.S., with poverty and air pollution rates driving the asthma population in both areas. (Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, 2021)
  • About 5 million American children have asthma. (Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, 2021)
  • Asthma is the most common chronic health condition for children. (American College of Asthma, Allergy & Immunology, 2018)
  • Adults are five times more likely to die from asthma than children, with people over 65 representing the group with the highest asthma-related deaths. (CDC, 2018)
  • Black, Hispanic, and Native Americans have the highest rates of asthma in the U.S., as well as the highest rates of hospitalizations and deaths related to asthma. (Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, 2020)
  • Black Americans are two times more likely to be hospitalized due to asthma than white Americans. (Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, 2020)
  • Hispanics living in Puerto Rico are three times more likely to die from asthma than Hispanics living in the U.S. (Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, 2020)
  • Native American children are 50% more likely to have asthma than white American children. (Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, 2020)


How Can You Tell If You Have Asthma?

It can be hard to tell if someone has asthma, especially in children under age 5. Having a doctor check how well your lungs work and check for allergies can help you find out if you have asthma.

During a checkup, a doctor will ask if you cough a lot, especially at night. He or she will also ask whether your breathing problems are worse after physical activity or at certain times of year. The doctor will then ask about chest tightness, wheezing, and colds lasting more than 10 days. He or she will ask whether anyone in your family has or has had asthma, allergies, or other breathing problems. Finally, the doctor will ask questions about your home and whether you have missed school or work or have trouble doing certain things.

The doctor may also do a breathing test, called spirometry, to find out how well your lungs are working by testing how much air you can breathe out after taking a very deep breath before and after you use asthma medicine.


What Is An Asthma Attack?

An asthma attack may include coughing, chest tightness, wheezing, and trouble breathing. The attack happens in your body’s airways, which are the paths that carry air to your lungs. As the air moves through your lungs, the airways become smaller, like the branches of a tree are smaller than the tree trunk. During an asthma attack, the sides of the airways in your lungs swell and the airways shrink. Less air gets in and out of your lungs, and mucous that your body makes clogs up the airways.

You can control your asthma by knowing the warning signs of an asthma attack, staying away from things that cause an attack, and following your doctor’s advice. When you control your asthma:

  • you won’t have symptoms such as wheezing or coughing,
  • you’ll sleep better,
  • you won’t miss work or school,
  • you can take part in all physical activities, and
  • you won’t have to go to the hospital.


What Causes An Asthma Attack?

An asthma attack can happen when you are exposed to “asthma triggers.” Your asthma triggers can be very different from someone else’s asthma triggers. Know your triggers and learn how to avoid them. Watch out for an attack when you can’t avoid your triggers. Some of the most common triggers are tobacco smoke, dust mites, outdoor air pollution, cockroach allergen, pets, mold, smoke from burning wood or grass, and infections like flu.


How Is Asthma Treated?

Take your medicine exactly as your doctor tells you and stay away from things that can trigger an attack to control your asthma.

Everyone with asthma does not take the same medicine.

You can breathe in some medicines and take other medicines as a pill. Asthma medicines come in two types—quick-relief and long-term control. Quick-relief medicines control the symptoms of an asthma attack. If you need to use your quick-relief medicines more and more, visit your doctor to see if you need a different medicine. Long-term control medicines help you have fewer and milder attacks, but they don’t help you while you are having an asthma attack.

Asthma medicines can have side effects, but most side effects are mild and soon go away. Ask your doctor about the side effects of your medicines.

Remember – you can control your asthma. With your doctor’s help, make your own asthma action plan. Decide who should have a copy of your plan and where he or she should keep it. Take your long-term control medicine even when you don’t have symptoms.

Everyone with asthma needs his or her own Asthma Action Plan. Work with your healthcare provider to create a plan that works for you, with the goal of controlling and preventing your asthma attacks. Create your own using the CDC’s Asthma Action Plan Tool.


Agencies and Organizations Working on Asthma

CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH)

NCEH’s national program is to maintain and improve the health of the American people by promoting a healthy environment and by preventing premature death and avoidable illness and disability caused by noninfectious, nonoccupational environmental and related factors. At this site find out about environmental health topics, including asthma, indoor/outdoor air pollution, and mold.

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)

This site provides easy-to-read information about asthma to help you learn about the latest information on asthma management.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

This federal agency informs people about the environment and develops and enforces regulations to protect the environment. Its mission is to protect human health and the environment. Learn how you can control asthma triggers indoors and outdoors.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s EnviroFlash

Offered by the EPA with support from State and local air quality agencies, EnviroFlash provides daily air quality information such as forecasts and action day notifications via email for your area of interest. EnviroFlash can be customized for your own needs, allowing you to protect the health of yourself and your family. Air quality information allows you to adjust your lifestyle when necessary on unhealthy air quality days.

Allergy and Asthma Network (AAN)

This national nonprofit network of families offers information about living with allergies and asthma. This Web site can help with your questions, concerns, and fears about asthma.

American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI)

If you think your child might have asthma, the first step is talking to a doctor or other medical professional. This Web site offers information about childhood asthma in English and Spanish.

American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP)

This site provides information about asthma management and how to manage symptoms with an asthma action plan.

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)

Asthma and allergies are among the most common chronic childhood diseases. It is important for family members to learn how to identify and avoid asthma and allergen triggers, recognize and present asthma attacks, understand medications, and help manage symptoms. This site offers information to help you learn more about childhood asthma and allergies.

American Lung Association (ALA)

This organization works to improve lung health and prevent lung disease through Education, Advocacy and Research.

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA)

This nonprofit organization is dedicated to improving the quality of life for people with asthma and allergies and their caregivers. The site offers a multimedia library, a glossary of asthma terms, and a list of health professional programs educating and caring for patients with asthma.

Asthma Disparities Work Group

The purpose of the Asthma Disparities Working Group (now the Asthma Disparities Subcommittee) is to address preventable factors that impact disparities in the burden of asthma in poor and minority children relative to their peers.

The National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF)

This organization advances environmental knowledge among health professionals to improve the public’s health with a special emphasis on children and underserved populations. This website explains their work, including the CDC- and EPA-funded Pediatric Asthma Initiative, which aims to integrate environmental management of asthma into pediatric medical and nursing education and practice.



Filed Under: Events, awareness, event, asthma