Asthma is a chronic disease that affects the airways that carry oxygen in and out of the lungs. If a person has asthma, the inside of these airways is irritated and swollen. Asthma can cause shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, and tightness in the chest.
Large racial, income, and geographic disparities exist in asthma prevalence. It is one of the leading chronic health conditions among children. Asthma causes lower quality of life, and large direct and indirect economic costs.
In 2007, a CDC study showed that 34 million or 1 in 9 Americans had been diagnosed with asthma during their lifetimes. Of that 34 million, 12.3 million had experienced an asthma attack in the previous year. In 2006, asthma was responsible for 1.6 million emergency department visits, and almost half a million hospitalizations.
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