Asthma in Children:  An Overview

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Asthma in children is one of the most common medical problems in the pediatric population.  According to statistics from the National Institutes of Health and the National Center for Health Statistics, childhood asthma affects over six million children under the age of eighteen and is the third leading cause of pediatric hospitalizations. Over the past decade the direct medical costs of asthma in children have exceeded a staggering eleven billion dollars, while the indirect costs (lost productivity of parents, for example) add another five billion.

The numbers of children diagnosed with childhood asthma have been increasing over the last few decades. There are many theories to explain this dramatic increase in children with asthma, but in reality, changing environmental factors, better diagnostic techniques, and an overall increased awareness of asthma by parents and medical professionals have all played a role.

Asthma in children can occur at any age, but most children will have symptoms before the age of six. Childhood asthma is more common in boys during early childhood, but by the teenage years the frequency of asthma among boys and girls is approximately equal. Compared to the overall pediatric population, African-American children are more likely to have asthma, and they have a higher incidence of severe asthma and asthma deaths.

Fortunately, deaths from childhood asthma are rare, but over four thousand people in the United States die each year from this disease.  The fact is, most asthma deaths are preventable. Asthma specialists play a vital and crucial role in the recognition and treatment of childhood asthma, and more importantly, they can be very helpful in preventing asthma symptoms from occurring.

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