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​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Asthma is a chronic disease that affects the airways that carry oxygen in and out of the lungs. If a person has asthma, the inside of these airways is irritated and swollen. Asthma can cause shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, and tightness in the chest. Asthma has no cure, but it can be controlled, especially when avoiding environmental triggers. 

Why is this important?

The Kentucky Asthma Management Program reports that 6.8% of children (2020) and 11.7% of adults (2021) had asthma. In 2021 in Kentucky, there were 10,228 emergency department visits and 1,150 hospitalizations due to asthma. In 2020 there were 39 deaths due to asthma. Asthma is the most common chronic condition in Kentucky schools, with over 39,000 diagnosed students in the 2021-2022 school year. 

There are also many direct and indirect economic costs associated with asthma. The total annual cost of asthma in the U.S., including medical expenses, missed work and school days and deaths, was more than $81 billion, with an estimated $3,266 per person medical cost each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and with over 459,900 Kentuckians reporting a diagnosis of asthma, this creates about $1.5 billion in medical cost in the state.

What is known?​

The CDC’s National Asthma Control Program developed EXHALE, a set of six strategies that each contribute to better asthma control, helping people with asthma achieve better health and improved quality of life. Each EXHALE strategy has been proven to reduce asthma-related hospitalizations, emergency department visits, and healthcare costs. The EXHALE strategies are:

  • Education on asthma self-management 
  • X-tinguishing smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke 
  • Home visits for trigger reduction and asthma self-management education 
  • Achievement of guidelines-based medical management 
  • Linkages and coordination of care across settings 
  • Environmental policies or best practices to reduce asthma triggers from indoor, outdoor, or occupational sources

Who is at risk?​

There are many factors that influence the risk of developing asthma. The CDC reports that in Kentucky the risk is increased in the following areas:

  • Gender: Females are more likely to have asthma. 
  • Age: Adults ages 50-64 are more likely to have asthma.
  • Race and ethnicity: For children, black non-Hispanic and Hispanic children are more likely to have asthma than white non-Hispanic children. For adults, black non-Hispanic adults have a higher risk than white non-Hispanic ​​adults.
  • Education: Adults who did not graduate high school have a higher risk than adults who did graduate high school or college.
  • Income: People with incomes below $50,000 per year are more likely to have asthma than those who have greater incomes.
  • Behavior: Smoking and obesity increase the risk of asthma.
  • People with disabilities: People with disabilities are almost two times more likely to have asthma than people who do not have disabilities.

Reduce your risk:

You can reduce the risk of severe complications, hospitalizations, and death due to asthma by properly taking prescribed medication and knowing your triggers. When you know your triggers, you can take preventive action to avoid them and prevent asthma attacks.

Asthma triggers can come from a variety of sources, such as outdoor allergens, chemicals used in certain occupations, vigorous exercise, or even some medical conditions. Some common triggers include

  • Dust mites
  • Pollen
  • Secondhand smoke
  • Mold
  • Air pollution and smoke
  • Strenuous exercise
  • Pets
  • ​Cockroaches​

Your healthcare provider will advise you on how to properly manage asthma. Asthma can usually be managed in an outpatient setting, reducing the need for emergency department visits. Effective management includes control of exposures to factors that trigger exacerbations, appropriate medications, continual monitoring of the disease, and patient education in asthma care.

Environmental factors that can increase the risk of an asthma attack include tobacco smoke, wood smoke, dust mites, mold and pollen, animal dander, cold weather and certain types of outdoor air pollution. Monitoring and avoiding these factors can help to decrease the risk of an asthma attack.

School-based health centers​ are also able to help children manage their asthma. This includes helping reduce exposures to environmental asthma triggers, education, case management, improving indoor air quality, improving students' home environments, and improving outdoor air quality around the school and community.