Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Asthma rates up, despite less smoking and air pollution

About one in 12 people in the United States now has asthma, a total of 24.6 million people and an increase of 4.3 million since 2001, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this week. • The cost of medical care for these patients increased by about 6 percent between 2002 and 2007, totaling $56 billion in the latter year, according to information in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. • The increases come despite improved air quality throughout most of the country and widespread decreases in smoking.

"We don't know exactly why the rate is going up," Ileana Arias, principal deputy director of the CDC, said in a news conference. "But measures can be taken to control asthma symptoms and exacerbations, and many asthma attacks can be prevented," she said.

Asthma is a chronic disease that is marked by wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness and nighttime and early morning coughing. Common triggers include tobacco smoke, mold, air pollution and infections such as influenza and colds. Several studies have also shown a connection between obesity and asthma.

The disease is generally treated with two classes of medications: beta-agonists to provide quick relief when patients are having symptoms, and inhaled corticosteroids or a combination of steroids and long-acting beta-agonists to control persistent asthma.

Researchers have changed the way they measure the incidence of asthma in the population, so direct comparison to rates in the 1990s is not possible, said Paul Garbe, chief of the CDC's air pollution and respiratory health branch. But there has been a continuing increase in the incidence over the last several decades, he said. "The trends are going up," he noted.

One trend, however, has changed, he added. In the 1980s and 1990s, there was a dramatic increase in the number of people who died from asthma, but the numbers have been declining. In 2007, there were 3,447 deaths attributable to asthma, about nine every day. "That (decrease) is the one bright spot."

Asthma is more common in children, with about 9.6 percent reporting the disease, compared with 7.7 percent of adults. Boys are particularly affected, with 11.3 percent of them having the disease. The biggest increase in asthma rates was among black children, an almost 50 percent increase between 2001 and 2009. Seventeen percent of black children now have the disease.

Average annual asthma costs in the nation were $3,300 per person over the course of the decade, according to the report. About 90 percent of those with asthma said they had health insurance, but 11 percent of those said they still could not afford their asthma medications. About 40 percent of those without insurance said they could not afford their medications.

One of the key measures in treating asthma is for physicians to prepare a written asthma action plan to teach patients how to manage their symptoms, including how to avoid asthma triggers and how to take their medications properly. Many physicians do not prepare such written plans, Garbe said, perhaps because they feel they do not have sufficient time to do so.

Many states are now also developing plans for home environmental assessments and educational sessions to help patients manage their disease. Work in some states has shown that these efforts reduce visits to the emergency room significantly.

But severe budget deficits in states and the federal government may impair such efforts in the future, according to the American Lung Association. The president's proposed budget, the association said, would reduce funding for in-home visits and other asthma programs by as much as 50 percent and reduce the number of states funded by the National Asthma Control Program from 36 to 15. At least half of the CDC-funded school-based asthma programs would also be eliminated, the group said.

Control common culprits

The Environmental Protection Agency recommends these steps to control five asthma triggers:

Secondhand smoke

Smokers who can't quit should take their habit outside to avoid harming those with asthma.

Ozone and particle pollution

Check the Air Quality Index (on the weather page of the St. Petersburg Times) to view reports of unhealthy levels.

Dust mites

Enclose mattresses and pillows with allergen-proof covers and wash sheets and blankets once a week in hot water.

Mold

Wash and dry hard surfaces to prevent and remove mold, and replace moldy ceiling tiles and carpet.

Pets

Keep them out of the bedroom and off furniture.

Asthma rates up, despite less smoking and air pollution 05/04/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 4, 2011 6:32pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Los Angeles Times.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Trump, seething about attorney general, speculates about firing Sessions, sources say

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has spoken with advisers about firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as he continues to rage against Sessions' decision to recuse himself from all matters related to the Russia investigation.

  2. John McCain to return to Senate for health care vote

    WASHINGTON — The Senate plans to vote Tuesday to try to advance a sweeping rewrite of the nation's health-care laws with the last-minute arrival of Sen. John McCain — but tough talk from President Donald Trump won no new public support from skeptical GOP senators for the flagging effort that all but …

  3. Last orca calf born in captivity at a SeaWorld park dies

    Tourism

    ORLANDO — The last killer whale born in captivity under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program died Monday at the company's San Antonio, Texas, park, SeaWorld said.

    Thet orca Takara helps guide her newborn, Kyara, to the water's surface at SeaWorld San Antonio in San Antonio, Texas, in April. Kyara was the final killer whale born under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program. The Orlando-based company says 3-month-old Kyara died Monday. [Chris Gotshall/SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment via AP]
  4. Blake Snell steps up, but Rays lose to Orioles anyway (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Blake Snell stepped up when he had to Monday and delivered an impressive career-high seven-plus innings for the Rays. That it wasn't enough in what ended up a 5-0 loss to the Orioles that was their season-high fifth straight is symptomatic of the funk they are in right now.

    Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Tim Beckham (1) after being doubled off first on the liner by shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria (11) in to end the seventh inning of the game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Monday, July 24, 2017.
  5. A historic Tampa family saves a historic Tampa home built by an ancestor

    Human Interest

    The Knight family has replaced their roof and people are celebrating.

    The Peter O. Knight historical cottage, located in Tampa's Hyde Park neighborhood, is seen Thursday, July 20, 2017. The cottage fell into disrepair in recent years, but the Knight family stepped up with financial support to help stabilize the structure.