Asthma Attacks, Hospitalizations Falling Among Children

New data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that robust asthma education and prevention programs are working.

The rate of asthma attacks is ticking down among children with the chronic lung disease, but new data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows half of kids with asthma still suffer at least 1 asthma attack per year.

The CDC this month issued a new Vital Signs report, which looks at pediatric asthma statistics like asthma attack rates, missed school days, and hospitalizations. The agency found 53.7% of children with asthma suffered at least one asthma attack in 2016. That’s down from 61.7% in the year 2001.

“We are making progress — but healthcare providers, parents, caregivers, and schools can do more to help children avoid asthma attacks,” CDC Acting Director Anne Schuchat, MD, said in a statement. “Asthma attacks can be terrifying for children and their families. Over the past decade, we’ve identified asthma management actions that work – not alone but in combination. Now we need to scale up these efforts nationwide.”

According to CDC data, the number of children under 18 with asthma is 6.2 million, representing 8.4% of children in the US. Boys, non-Hispanic black children, children of Puerto Rican descent, and children from low-income families were all found to have higher rates of asthma.

The new data showed children are missing school less often for asthma-related reasons. It also found that the rate of hospitalizations for children was virtually cut in half, from 9.6% of children with asthma being hospitalized in 2003, to just 4.7% in 2013. However, those statistics only capture children admitted to the hospital. One in 6 children with asthma still ends up in the emergency department at least once per year, according to the new data.

Sanaz Eftekhari, director of corporate affairs for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, told MD Magazine echoed the CDC in crediting a range of stakeholders for the drop in hospitalizations and asthma attacks.

To keep the numbers falling, Eftekhari said it will take more than collaboration — it will take money.

“Continued funding for the CDC Asthma Control Program is critical to continued success,” Eftekhari said. “Similarly, access to affordable care and medicines will help ensure continued success. We encourage reimbursement from healthcare plans for the education of children with asthma.”

Eftekhari also noted the influence of pollution, both indoor and outdoor. She said AAFA supports policies that promote asthma-friendly school environments, and her association also offers a certification program designed to highlight products that are conducive to an asthma-friendly environment and reduce exposure to indoor asthma triggers.

The CDC noted a rise in the number of children who have asthma action plans. Such plans not only help ensure teachers and school staff understand what to do in case of an attack, but they also help educate the children themselves about avoiding triggers and taking medications properly.

In addition to raising awareness, the CDC also funds the National Asthma Control Program, which works with partners to promote asthma-awareness policies and programs. However, the CDC’s funding for that program currently goes to just 24 states, and Puerto Rico.

The CDC’s Vital Signs report on asthma and children was published this month.

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