Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the airways characterized by episodes of wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing. This disorder may be aggravated by allergens, tobacco smoke and other irritants, exercise, and infections of the respiratory tract. However, by taking certain precautions, persons with asthma may be able to effectively manage this disorder and participate in daily activities.

In 2003, women had higher rates of asthma than men (81.1 compared to 45.7 per 1,000 population). This disparity was most pronounced among those between the ages of 45 and 64 years, where women experienced asthma at more than twice the rate of men. The difference in asthma rates among men and women was the smallest among those 18-44 years of age, although women in this group still experienced asthma at more than 1.5 times the rate of men.

Among women, rates of asthma differed among racial and ethnic groups. Non-Hispanic Black and non-Hispanic White women had the highest rates of asthma (86 per 1,000 females), followed by Hispanic women (60.8 per 1,000 women); Asian women had the lowest rates (22.8 per 1,000 women).

Graph: Adults with Asthma by Age and Sex[d]

Graph: Women with Asthma by Race/Ethnicity[d]