One in six US high-school students has asthma

In a national survey of high-school students, approximately one in six reported that they currently have Asthma, and of these, more than one in three had an attack during the preceding year, investigators at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.

In the CDC’s 2003 national Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 13,222 students across the US completed questionnaires regarding their history of Asthma.

Dr. S. Merkle and colleagues report in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report that almost 19 percent of respondents had told by a doctor or nurse at some point that they had Asthma.

The survey also showed that 16 percent currently had Asthma, and 38 percent of those with current Asthma had experienced an asthma episode during the 12 months preceding the survey.

The results indicated that significantly fewer Hispanic (13 percent) students than black or white (17 percent) students reported current asthma.

Among those with current Asthma, girls were more likely than boys to report an episode during the previous year (45 percent versus 31 percent).

“Schools can help improve asthma management among students whose asthma is not well controlled by providing health services, education, and control of environmental triggers,” the authors note.

Asthma: Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Asthma is a disease in which inflammation of the airways causes airflow into and out of the lungs to be restricted. When an asthma attack occurs, the muscles of the bronchial tree become tight and the lining of the air passages swells, reducing airflow and producing the characteristic wheezing sound. Mucus production is increased.

Most people with asthma have periodic wheezing attacks separated by symptom-free periods. Some asthmatics have chronic shortness of breath with episodes of increased shortness of breath. Other asthmatics may have cough as their predominant symptom. Asthma attacks can last minutes to days, and can become dangerous if the airflow becomes severely restricted.

In sensitive individuals, asthma symptoms can be triggered by inhaled allergens (allergy triggers), such as pet dander, dust mites, cockroach allergens, molds, or pollens. Asthma symptoms can also be triggered by respiratory infections, exercise, cold air, tobacco smoke and other pollutants, stress, food, or drug allergies. Aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS) provoke asthma in some patients.

Asthma is found in 3-5% of adults and 7-10% of children. Half of the people with asthma develop it before age 10, and most develop it before age 30. Asthma symptoms can decrease over time, especially in children.

Many people with asthma have an individual and/or family history of allergies, such as hay fever (Allergic rhinitis) or Eczema. Others have no history of allergies or evidence of allergic problems.

Measures that they say could improve Asthma management include the requirement of a written asthma action plan for all students with asthma, providing education on asthma basics, ensuring an emergency response when necessary, and prohibiting tobacco use.

SOURCE: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, August 12, 2005.

Provided by ArmMed Media
Revision date: June 14, 2011
Last revised: by Jorge P. Ribeiro, MD