U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration

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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 2007, women were more likely to have asthma than men (9.0 versus 5.4 percent, respectively); this was true in every racial and ethnic group. Among women, non-Hispanic Black women were most likely to have asthma (9.8 percent), followed by non-Hispanic White women (9.3 percent). Non-Hispanic women of other races and Hispanic women were least likely to have asthma (6.6 and 7.9 percent, respectively).

A visit to the emergency room due to asthma may be an indication that the asthma is not effectively controlled or treated. In 2007, asthmatic women with family incomes below poverty were more likely than women with higher family incomes to have an emergency room visit due to asthma. Among women with family incomes less than 100 percent of poverty, 32.4 percent of those with asthma had visited the emergency room in the past year, compared to 14.5 percent of asthmatic women with family incomes of 300 percent or more of poverty. Consistent access to and use of medication can reduce the use of hospital and emergency room care for people with asthma.1

1 Stern L, Berman J, Lumry W, Katz L, Wang L, Rosenblatt L, Doyle JJ. Medication compliance and disease exacerbation in patients with asthma: a retrospective study of managed care data. Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. 2006; 97(3):402-408.

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