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, poor housing, 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 2008, women were more likely to have asthma than men (8.8 versus 5.6 percent, respectively); this was true for all income levels. Among women, those with household incomes below 100 percent of poverty were most likely to have asthma (13.6 percent). In comparison, 8.4 percent of women with incomes of 200–399 percent of poverty and 7.2 percent of those with incomes of 400 percent or more of poverty had asthma.

A visit to the emergency room due to an asthma attack may indicate that asthma is not being effectively controlled or treated. In 2008, 22.1 percent of women with an asthma attack in the past year sought care from an emergency room for their condition. The proportion of women suffering an asthma attack who visit the emergency room varies by race and ethnicity. Non-Hispanic Black women were most likely to have visited an emergency room (38.6 percent), compared to 21.4 percent of Hispanic women and 17.7 percent of non-Hispanic White women.

Women with asthma can effectively manage their condition by creating an asthma management plan with their doctor and knowing about and avoiding asthma triggers.1 Consistent access to and use of medication can reduce the likelihood of an asthma attack, as well as the use of hospital and emergency room care for people with asthma.2

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Asthma: Management and Treatment. [online] Apr 2009.  http://www.cdc.gov/asthma/management.html, accessed 02/25/10.

2 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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