Asthma affects about 7 million American children ages of 5 - 14. Asthma has dramatically increased worldwide over the last few decades, in both developed and developing countries. Asthma is the most common chronic childhood illness. About half of all cases of asthma develop before the age of 10, and about 80% of patients develop symptoms before they are 5 years old.
Among younger children, asthma develops twice as frequently in boys as in girls, but after puberty it is more common in girls.
African-American children have significantly higher rates of asthma than Caucasian children. Hispanic children are also at higher risk. Both groups of minority children are more likely to have fatal asthma than Caucasian children. Ethnicity and genetics, however, are less likely to play a role in these differences than socioeconomic differences, such as having less access to optimal health care, and greater likelihood of living in an urban area. Caucasian children who live in cities also face a high risk for asthma.
A variety of pregnancy and perinatal factors have been associated with risk for asthma, although none are very well studied or proven. Results from studies include:
Studies report a strong association between obesity and asthma. Evidence also suggests that people who are overweight (body mass index greater than 25) have more difficulty getting their asthma under control. Weight loss in anyone who is obese and has asthma or shortness of breath helps reduce airway obstruction and improve lung function. [For more information, see In-Depth Report #53: Weight control and diet.].
GERD. At least half of patients with asthma also have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), the cause of heartburn. It is not entirely clear which condition causes the other or whether they are both due to common factors. Treating GERD does not appear to improve asthma control. [For more information, see In-Depth Report #85: Heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease.]
Aspirin-Induced Asthma. About About 10% of adults and fewer children have aspirin-induced asthma (AIA). With this condition, asthma gets worse when patients take aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). AIA often develops after a viral infection. It is a particularly severe asthmatic condition, associated with many asthma-related hospitalizations. In about 5% of cases, aspirin is responsible for a syndrome that involves multiple attacks of asthma, sinusitis, and nasal congestion. Such patients also often have polyps (small benign growths) in the nasal passages.
Patients with aspirin-induced asthma (AIA) should avoid aspirin andother NSAIDs, including ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen (Aleve).
American Lung Association Asthma Clinical Research Centers, Peters SP, Anthonisen N, Castro M, Holbrook JT, Irvin CG, et al. Randomized comparison of strategies for reducing treatment in mild persistent asthma. N Engl J Med. 2007 May 17;356(20):2027-39.
Bateman E, Nelson H, Bousquet J, Kral K, Sutton L, Ortega H, Yancey S. Meta-analysis: effects of adding salmeterol to inhaled corticosteroids on serious asthma-related events. Ann Intern Med. 2008 Jul 1;149(1):33-42. Epub 2008 Jun 3.
Castro-Rodriguez JA, Rodrigo GJ. Efficacy of inhaled corticosteroids in infants and preschoolers with recurrent wheezing and asthma: a systematic review with meta-analysis. Pediatrics. 2009 Mar;123(3):e519-25.
Fanta CH. Asthma. N Engl J Med. 2009 Mar 5;360(10):1002-14.
Greer FR, Sicherer SH, Burks AW; American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition; American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Allergy and Immunology. Effects of early nutritional interventions on the development of atopic disease in infants and children: the role of maternal dietary restriction, breastfeeding, timing of introduction of complementary foods, and hydrolyzed formulas. Pediatrics. 2008 Jan;121(1):183-91.
Kukkonen K, Savilahti E, Haahtela T, Juntunen-Backman K, Korpela R, Poussa T, et al. Probiotics and prebiotic galacto-oligosaccharides in the prevention of allergic diseases: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2007 Jan;119(1):192-8. Epub 2006 Oct 23.
National Asthma Education and Prevention Program Expert Panel Report 3: Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma. Rockville, MD. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, US Dept of Health and Human Services; 2007. NIH publications 08-4051.
Stern DA, Morgan WJ, Halonen M, Wright AL, Martinez FD. Wheezing and bronchial hyper-responsiveness in early childhood as predictors of newly diagnosed asthma in early adulthood: a longitudinal birth-cohort study. Lancet. 2008 Sep 20;372(9643):1058-64.
Vliagoftis H, Kouranos VD, Betsi GI, Falagas ME. Probiotics for the treatment of allergic rhinitis and asthma: systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2008 Dec;101(6):570-9.
© 2011 University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC). All rights reserved.
UMMC is a member of the University of Maryland Medical System,
22 S. Greene Street, Baltimore, MD 21201. TDD: 1-800-735-2258 or 1.866.408.6885