Asthma cases up in the U.S.
May 3rd, 2011
02:04 PM ET

Asthma cases up in the U.S.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, asthma cases are on the rise. New statistics show that people diagnosed with asthma in the United States grew by 4.3 million between 2001 and 2009.

A new Vital Signs report released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, finds nearly 1 in 12 Americans were diagnosed with asthma by 2009. Asthma costs have escalate from about $53 billion in 2002 to about $56 billion in 2007, which is about a 6% increase.

Asthma is a pulmonary condition that can cause serious cases of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and coughing. Patients can control their asthma symptoms through medication or by avoiding things that exacerbate their illness, including smoking and air pollution. Asthma triggers are usually environmental and can be found everywhere, including schools, offices, homes, outdoors, and any place where mold or allergy irritants can grow. And even though many patients have been educated when it comes to their asthma, the explanation for the growth in asthma rates still remains a mystery.

"Despite the fact that outdoor air quality has improved, we've reduced two common asthma triggers – secondhand smoke and smoking in general - asthma is increasing," said Dr. Paul Garbe, chief of CDC's Air Pollution and Respiratory Health Branch. "While we don't know the cause of the increase, our top priority is getting people to manage their symptoms better."

The report finds that asthma diagnoses increased among all demographic groups between 2001 and 2009, though a higher percentage of children reported having asthma than adults (9.6% compared to 7.7% in 2009).  Diagnoses were especially high among boys (11.3%), while the greatest rise in asthma rates was among African American children (almost a 50% increase) from 2001 through 2009.  17% of non-Hispanic black children had asthma in 2009, the highest rate among racial/ethnic groups.

"Asthma is a serious, lifelong disease that unfortunately kills thousands of people each year and adds billions to our nation's health care costs," said CDC Director, Dr.Thomas R. Frieden. "We have to do a better job educating people about managing their symptoms and how to correctly use medicines to control asthma so they can live longer more productive lives while saving health care costs."

The report coincides with World Asthma Day, an annual event sponsored by the Global Initiative for Asthma.

In an effort to cut asthma cases the CDC is making the following recommendations.

* Improve indoor air quality for asthma patients by passing smoke-free air laws and policies, in public places, including school areas and workplaces.

* Teach patients how to avoid asthma triggers such as smoke, mold, pet dander, and outdoor air pollution,

* Encourage doctors to prescribe inhaled corticosteroids for all patients with persistent asthma and to provide patients with asthma action plans on how to manage their symptoms.

* Encourage home environmental assessments and educational sessions conducted by clinicians, health educators, and other health professionals both within and outside of a clinical or hospital setting.

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