What is Asthma?
Asthma is a chronic disease that causes airways in the lungs to become irritated and swollen. Asthma attacks usually begin with a “trigger”, which is exposure to something (typically, an external allergen) that causes airways to react. The most common indoor asthma triggers are smoke, animals with fur or feathers, dust mites, mold or mildew, strong fragrances and chemicals. Outdoor triggers include plant pollens and air pollution caused by industrial emissions, wildfires, wood burning and automobile exhaust. Tobacco smoke can be an asthma trigger indoors or outdoors. Asthma attacks can vary in severity and triggers vary from person to person. There is no cure for asthma, but it can be managed with proper medication and by avoiding things that trigger asthma.
Who is at risk?
The CDC National Asthma Control Program reports that 1 in 11 children and 1 in 12 adults have asthma. Based on the most recent data available (2015), 11.2% of adults and 9.4% of children under the age of 18 in Oregon reported a current diagnosis of asthma.
Your risk of developing asthma is higher if you:
- have a blood relative (parent or sibling) with asthma
- have allergies
- are exposed to dust or chemical fumes
- smoke or are around people who smoke
- are exposed to high levels of air pollution (smog, ozone, particulates)
- are overweight or obese
Children are more likely to develop asthma if they were born prematurely or if there is a smoker in the home. Young children under age three with severe allergic skin problems, allergies like hay fever or severe viral infections are also more likely to develop asthma. In children, boys are more likely to have asthma than girls. Asthma often causes lower quality of life for children who have it and the people who care for them. Adult women are more likely to have asthma than men. Asthma is associated with health outcomes that could be prevented, such as obesity.
How to reduce risk
Asthma triggers are different for each person. To help control asthma, it is necessary to identify triggers, so they can be eliminated or avoided. Effective asthma management, including developing an asthma action plan with a medical provider, can significantly improve the quality of life.
Two key air pollutants, ozone and particulate matter, can worsen asthma symptoms and trigger attacks. Following guidelines to protect sensitive individuals during times of high air pollution can help reduce asthma symptoms.
People who work in school-based health centers may be able to help children manage their asthma. This includes helping reduce exposures to environmental asthma triggers, education, case management and improving indoor air quality. The Public Health Institute developed a guide for school-based health centers. Follow this link for more information: Asthma Environmental Intervention Guide for School-Based Health Centers.
About the measures
Asthma measures are the annual number of hospitalizations, crude rate and age-adjusted rate. The measures can be used to identify trends and patterns in the occurrence of asthma hospitalizations across time and space.
About the data
The data are organized by different variables to help estimate the number of asthma hospital admissions in different time periods, age groups, and geographic areas, such as states and counties. Asthma hospital admissions tend to be for more severe asthma attacks and do not include asthma among individuals who do not receive medical care, who are not hospitalized or who are treated in outpatient settings. Differences between geographic areas may be the result of differences in the underlying population or in the diagnostic or coding techniques used by the reporting hospital.
For more information about asthma, please visit these websites.