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Asthma is a lifelong chronic condition that makes it difficult for an individual to breathe. In the United States, more than 25 million adults and children have a current asthma diagnosis. Of these adults and children, 41.2% had 1 or more asthma attacks in the last 12 months.

People with asthma have repeated episodes of wheezing, difficulty breathing, coughing, and chest tightness. A person with asthma can experience an asthma attack after coming into contact with things in the environment such as air pollution, outdoor/indoor allergens, cold air, and more. These triggers and the severity of asthma attacks can vary from person to person.

While there is no cure for asthma, it can be managed with proper medication and avoiding triggers.
Asthma disproportionately impacts vulnerable populations, including but not limited to: children, communities of color, and people who live on low incomes. Therefore, tracking asthma is important to understand disparities in environmental health and help us move toward health equity and environmental justice for everyone.

The costs associated with asthma highlight the importance of tracking data.
In addition to the physical effects of asthma, people who live with asthma or who have loved ones with asthma are also burdened with the cost of medication, treatment, and complications. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, asthma costs the U.S. economy more than $80 billion annually in medical expenses, days missed from work and school, and deaths. In 2018, asthma hospitalizations alone cost Utahns more than $12 million.
According to the American Lung Association, asthma rates among American adults increased between 2001 and 2010. Since 2010, asthma rates have remained constant. In contrast, current asthma rates for adults in Utah jumped from 7.0% to 9.1% between 2001 and 2010 and the latest data puts the current asthma rate for Utah adults at 9.9%.

Between 2001 and 2019, the asthma mortality rate in the U.S. decreased from 15 deaths per million people to 10.7 deaths per million people. Despite this, there are still nearly 10 deaths from asthma each day. In 2019, there were 3,524 deaths nationally and 25 deaths in Utah related to asthma.

Notable health disparities
Individuals who identify as Black experience higher asthma-related mortality than individuals of other races or ethnicities. In 2019, the asthma mortality rate of Americans who identify as non-Hispanic Black was 23.9 deaths per million people. The disparity is clear when comparing this value to the asthma mortality rate of Americans who identify as non-Hispanic White (9.9 deaths per million people).

Asthma is the most common chronic disease in children. Asthma is also the most common reason for school absenteeism among school-aged children and adolescents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of 3 out of 30 children in a classroom are likely to have asthma.

Respiratory health conditions, such as asthma, are impacted by current and future air quality. To learn more about the connection between asthma and air quality, visit the Utah Department of Health and Human Services Asthma Program's website.
These are some other risk factors for asthma:
(Remember, a risk factor does not equate to a causative factor)
  • Family history: If you have a parent with asthma, then you are 3 to 6 times more likely to develop asthma compared to someone who does not have a parent with asthma.
  • Air pollution: Exposure to ozone, the main component of smog, can increase the risk for developing asthma. If you grew up or live in an urban area, then that increases the risk of developing asthma.
  • Race and ethnicity: Children who identify as Black are twice as likely to have asthma than children who identify as White. Adults who identify as Black are more likely to have asthma than adults who identify as White or Hispanic.
  • Sex: In childhood, males are more likely to have asthma than females. In adulthood, females are more likely to have asthma than males.
  • Age: Young adults ages 18 to 24 years are more likely to have asthma compared with older adults.
  • Occupational exposure: Certain dusts, chemical fumes and vapors, and molds in the workplace can cause asthma to develop in adults. Certain elements in the workplace can also trigger asthma symptoms in adults with asthma.
  • Income: People with incomes less than $75,000 per year are more likely to have asthma than those who have higher incomes. This may be due to an inability to afford treatment, lack of access to quality health care, exposure to environmental triggers, etc.
  • Behavior: Smoking can increase the risk for developing asthma, especially for children born to mothers who smoke during pregnancy. Smoking also triggers asthma attacks. Obesity is associated with the development of asthma, worsening asthma symptoms, and poor asthma control.
Although there is no cure, it is possible to reduce the risk of severe complications, hospitalizations, and death caused by asthma by taking medication as prescribed and knowing possible triggers. 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

It is important to remember that asthma triggers vary from person to person.

Once you are diagnosed with asthma, your healthcare provider will advise you on proper management. 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, using medicine as prescribed, monitoring the disease, and patient education in asthma care.

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Utah Tracking receives data on asthma hospitalizations and emergency department visits from the Utah Department of Health and Human Services Office of Health Care Statistics.

Asthma prevalence data comes from the Utah Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey. The BRFSS survey is conducted by the survey center in the Utah Department of Health and Human Services Office of Public Health Assessment.

Note: The asthma data on this website only reflects severe cases that require hospitalization or an emergency department visit and do not account for less severe asthma cases. Asthma data measures presented here are generated using data from local hospitals and do not include asthma cases managed in the outpatient setting.

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The information provided above is from the Utah Department of Health's Center for Health Data IBIS-PH web site ( The information published on this website may be reproduced without permission. Please use the following citation: " Retrieved Sat, 25 May 2024 22:46:12 from Utah Department of Health, Center for Health Data, Indicator-Based Information System for Public Health Web site: ".

Content updated: Fri, 22 Jul 2022 10:32:22 MDT