Asthma is a disease that affects your lungs. It causes repeated episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and nighttime or early morning coughing. Asthma can be controlled by taking medicine and avoiding the triggers that can cause an attack. You must also remove the triggers in your environment that can make your asthma worse.
CDC’s National Asthma Control Program helps Americans with asthma achieve better health and improved quality of life. The program funds states, school programs, and non-government organizations to help them improve surveillance of asthma, train health professionals, educate individuals with asthma and their families, and explain asthma to the public.
Data, Statistics, and Surveillance
Asthma Surveillance Data
Asthma surveillance data includes collection of asthma data at both the national and the state level. National data is available on asthma prevalence, activity limitation, days of work or school lost, rescue and control medication use, asthma self-management education, physician visits, emergency department visits, hospitalizations due to asthma, and deaths due to asthma from National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) surveys and the Vital Statistics System. Asthma surveillance data at the state level include adult and child asthma prevalence from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) and in-depth state and local asthma data through implementation of the BRFSS Asthma Call-back Survey (ACBS).
- Measures to Identify and Track Racial Disparities in Childhood Asthma[PDF – 1.28 MB]
April 2016 Recommendations from the Standards Subcommittee of the Asthma Disparities Workgroup, an interagency committee convened to address strategies in the Coordinated Federal Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Asthma Disparities.
- Most Recent Asthma Data
These tables feature the latest national and state statistics on the burden of asthma among children and adults.
- Tables and Graphs
Read asthma-related data in tables and graphs from sources including the Asthma Call-back Survey (ACBS), Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), and National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). You can also view asthma-related Statistics and Survey Questions.
- Reports and Publications
Learn more about Surveillance Summaries; Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report and Publications; National Center for Health Statistics; Other Related Articles, Publications, and Links; and State Data Profiles.
- Asthma’s Impact on the Nation
Asthma surveillance data show asthma’s deadly, disruptive, and costly impact on the nation. Learn more about Asthma’s Impact on the Nation through data from CDC’s National Asthma Control Program (NACP) presented in a Fact Sheet, Infographic, State Data Profiles, and a report on Work-related Asthma.
- Asthma Prevalence in the U.S.: Slide set[PPTX – 3.8 MB]
Downloadable set of 18 slides graphically summarizing asthma prevalence in the United States
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.
In most cases, we don’t know what causes asthma, and we don’t know how to cure it. We know that if someone in your family has asthma you are more likely to have it.
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, the doctor will ask if you cough a lot, especially at night. He or she will then ask whether your breathing problems are worse after physical activity or at certain times of year. The doctor will then also 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 if you have missed school or work or have trouble doing certain things.
The doctor will also do a breathing test, called spirometry, to find out how well your lungs are working. The doctor will use a computer with a mouthpiece to test how much air you can breathe out after taking a very deep breath. The spirometer can measure airflow 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 even more.
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 triggers can be very different from those of someone else with asthma. Know your triggers and learn how to avoid them. Watch out for an attack when you can’t avoid the triggers. Some of the most common triggers are tobacco smoke, dust mites, outdoor air pollution, cockroach allergen, pets, mold, and smoke from burning wood or grass.
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 healthcare provider’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.