Asthma is a chronic condition that affects the airways in the lungs.  During an asthma attack, the airways in the lungs become inflamed, making it difficult to breathe.  Asthma attacks commonly include the following symptoms:

  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Tightness or pain in the chest

While we don’t know exactly what causes asthma and doctors and researchers are still working towards an eventual cure, asthma attacks are often triggered by:

  • Allergens (e.g., pollen, mold, animal dander, and dust mites)
  • Exercise
  • Occupational hazards
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Air pollution
  • Airway infections

Asthma is one of the most serious health issues in the country, affecting more than 25 million Americans, including an estimated 7 million children.  According to data from the Center for Disease Control National Asthma Control Program:

  • Asthma costs the United States $56 billion each year.
  • The average yearly cost of care for a child with asthma was $1,039 in 2009.
  • In 2008, asthma caused 10.5 million missed days of school and 14.2 million missed days of work.
  • Each day approximately nine people die from asthma.

One of the most alarming recent trends is that asthma is getting worse.  Despite increased awareness, the proportion of individuals suffering from asthma in the United States grew by 15% over the past decade.  In 2009, there were 479,300 asthma-related hospitalizations, 1.9 million asthma-related emergency department visits and 8.9 million asthma-related doctor visits.

According to the EPA, less than 30 percent of people with asthma are taking all the actions that are recommended by health experts to reduce their exposure to indoor environmental factors that trigger asthma.  In a future blog post, I will write about some new technologies that are helping thousands of people suffering from asthma and other environmental sensitivities.

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