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America's Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2020

Asthma

Asthma is a disease of the lungs that can cause wheezing, difficulty in breathing, and chest pain. It is one of the most common chronic diseases among children. Asthma varies greatly in severity. Some children who have been diagnosed with asthma may not experience any serious respiratory effects. Other children may have mild symptoms or may respond well to management of their asthma, typically with medication. Some children with asthma may, however, suffer serious attacks that greatly limit their activities, result in visits to emergency rooms or hospitals, or, in rare cases, cause death.61 Environmental factors such as air pollution and secondhand tobacco smoke, along with infections, exercise, and allergens, can trigger asthma attacks in children who have the disease.6266

Figure 22 Percentage of children ages 0–17 who currently have asthma by metropolitan status, 2016–2018
Figure 22 Percentage of children ages 0–17 who currently have asthma by metropolitan status, 2016–2018

NOTE: Children are identified as ever diagnosed with asthma by asking parents "Has a doctor or other health professional EVER told you that your child has asthma?" If the parent answered YES to this question, they were then asked "Does your child still have asthma?" The question "Does your child still have asthma?" was introduced in 2001 and identifies children who currently have asthma. The U.S. Office of Management and Budget classifies some counties as within a metropolitan statistical area. The remaining counties are considered nonmetropolitan. Nonmetropolitan counties include counties in micropolitan statistical and rural areas.

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

  • In 2016–2018, 8.1% of children ages 0–17 were reported to currently have asthma.
  • In 2016–2018, the percentage of children ages 0–17 in metropolitan areas reported to currently have asthma was 8.1%. The percentage of children who currently have asthma was 8.2% in nonmetropolitan areas. There was no statistically significant difference in the percentage of children reported to currently have asthma by metropolitan status.

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61 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). Asthma in children. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/pdf/2018-02-vitalsigns.pdf

62 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (2013). Integrated science assessment of ozone and related photochemical oxidants (EPA/600/R-10/076F). Retrieved from https://cfpub.epa.gov/ncea/isa/recordisplay.cfm?deid=247492

63 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (2019). Integrated science assessment (ISA) for particulate matter (EPA/600/R-19/188). Retrieved from https://cfpub.epa.gov/ncea/isa/recordisplay.cfm?deid=341593

64 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2006). The health consequences of involuntary exposure to tobacco smoke: A report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: 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. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK44324/

65 Gern, J. E. (2004). Viral respiratory infection and the link to asthma. Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, 23(1 Suppl), S78–S86. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.inf.0000108196.46134.a6

66 Lemanske, R. F., Jr., & Busse, W. W. (2003). Asthma. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 111(2 Suppl), S502–S519. Retrieved from https://www.jacionline.org/article/S0091-6749(02)91356-4/fulltext