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America's Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2016

Asthma

Asthma is one of the most common childhood chronic diseases. It causes wheezing, difficulty in breathing, and chest tightness. Some children diagnosed with asthma may not experience any serious respiratory effects. Others may have mild symptoms or may respond well to management of their asthma, typically through the use of medication. However, some children with asthma may suffer serious attacks that limit their activities, result in visits to emergency rooms or hospitals, or, in rare cases, cause death. Air pollution and secondhand tobacco smoke, along with infections, exercise, and allergens, can trigger asthma attacks in children with asthma.89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94 The prevalence of asthma among children doubled from 1980 to 1995 and then increased more slowly during the 2000s. Racial disparities in childhood asthma prevalence have emerged since 1996. Higher asthma prevalence among children has been observed by poverty level and geographic region of residence.95

Figure 31: Percentage of children ages 0–17 who currently have asthma by race and Hispanic origin, 2001–2014
Percentage of children ages 0–17 who currently have asthma by race and Hispanic origin, 2001–2014

NOTE: Children are identified as ever having been diagnosed with asthma by asking parents, "Has a doctor or other health professional ever told you that your child has asthma?" If the parent answers yes to this question, they are then asked, (1) "Does your child still have asthma?" and (2) "During the past 12 months, has your child had an episode of asthma or an asthma attack?" The question "Does your child still have asthma?" was introduced in 2001 and identifies children who currently have asthma. Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race. Data on race and Hispanic origin are collected and combined for reporting according to 1997 Office of Management and Budget Standards for Data on Race and Ethnicity. The 2003 estimate for Asian, non-Hispanic children was unreliable and therefore not presented.

SOURCE: National Center for Health Statistics, National Health Interview Survey.

  • In 2014, 13 percent of Black, non-Hispanic children were reported to currently have asthma, compared with 8 percent of White, non-Hispanic; 8 percent of Hispanic; and 6 percent of Asian, non-Hispanic children.
  • From 2001 to 2014, the percentage of Hispanic; White, non-Hispanic; and Asian, non-Hispanic96 (trend from 2004 to 2014) children with current asthma was stable. The percentage of Black, non-Hispanic children with current asthma increased from 2001 to 2010 and then declined from 2011 to 2014.
  • Throughout this period, the percentage of Black, non-Hispanic children with current asthma was higher than the corresponding percentages for Hispanic; White, non-Hispanic; and Asian, non-Hispanic children with current asthma.

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89 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development, National Center for Environmental Assessment. (2013). Integrated science assessment of ozone and related photochemical oxidants (EPA Report No. 600/R-10/076F). Retrieved from http://cfpub.epa.gov/ncea/isa/recordisplay.cfm?deid=247492

90 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development, National Center for Environmental Assessment. (2009). Integrated science assessment for particulate matter (EPA Report No. 600/R-08/139F). Retrieved from http://cfpub.epa.gov/ncea/CFM/recordisplay.cfm?deid=216546

91 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Coordinating Center for Health Promotion, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health. (2006). The health consequences of involuntary exposure to tobacco smoke: A report of the Surgeon General. Retrieved from http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/reports/secondhandsmoke/fullreport.pdf

92 Institute of Medicine, Division of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, Committee on the Assessment of Asthma and Indoor Air. (2000). Clearing the air: Asthma and indoor air exposures [National Academies Press OpenBook version]. Retrieved from http://books.nap.edu/catalog/9610.html

93 Gern, J. E. (2004). Viral respiratory infection and the link to asthma. Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, 23 (1 Suppl.), S78–S86. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14730274

94 Lemanske, R. F., Jr., & Busse, W. W. (2003). Asthma. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 111 (2 Suppl.), S502–S519. doi:10.1067/mai.2003.94

95 Akinbami, L. J., Simon, A. E., & Rossen, L. M. (2016). Changing trends in asthma prevalence among children. Pediatrics, 137(1), 1–7. doi:10.1542/peds.2015-2354.

96 Reliable data for Asian, non-Hispanic children are only available for 2001 to 2002 and 2004 to 2014.