Asthma is a severe and chronic disease that affects over 230 million people worldwide, including more than 18 million adults and 7 million children in the United States.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 1.9 million emergency department visits and 479,300 hospitalizations for asthma in 2009. More than 14 million work days were lost to asthma in 2008, and the direct and indirect costs of asthma to the U.S. economy average $56 billion each year.
Asthma is one of the leading chronic childhood diseases, a major cause of childhood disability, and places a huge burden on affected children and their families, limiting the child's ability to learn, play, and even sleep. Children missed 10.5 million school days in 2008 because of asthma.
Approximately 16 percent of African-American children have asthma, compared to 8.2 percent of white children. In addition, African-American children are twice as likely as white children to be hospitalized for asthma and four times as likely to die of the disease.
The cause of asthma remains unknown. Through research programs and the efforts of hundreds of independent researchers, NIAID is working to understand the underlying causes of asthma and reduce the burden of this disease.
Last Updated April 11, 2014