What is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic disease that affects the lungs. It occurs when the airways narrow, making it difficult to breathe. Asthma cannot be cured, but it can be managed with medication, changes to one’s environment, and behavioral changes.

Asthma affects approximately 20 million people across the nation.  In Hawaii, more than 111,100 people are affected by asthma, and about one-third are children.  Each year, 5,000 people in Hawaii are rushed to the emergency room because of asthma.  Infants and young children (0 to 4 years of age) make up the majority of emergency room visits and hospitalizations due to asthma.  Although the asthma mortality rate has declined over the past 10 years, there was an average of 22 deaths per year from asthma in Hawaii between 2013 and 2015.

For more information about asthma, please see the National Impact of Asthma Fact Sheet.

Asthma Signs, Symptoms, & Triggers

Asthma can affect anyone but most often occurs in childhood. Asthma is characterized by recurrent episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and nighttime or early morning coughing. Complications from asthma can be minor to life-threatening. Therefore it is important to manage your asthma and carefully monitor children with asthma.

An asthma attack can be brought on by exposure to allergens and irritants such as dust mites, mold, cockroaches, pet dander and secondhand smoke, as well as cold or flu virus and changes in the weather such as VOG. Although asthma cannot be cured, most people can control asthma so that they have fewer symptoms and can live healthy, active lives. There are simple actions people can take to have asthma diagnosed, treated, and controlled.

Check out CDC’s Common Asthma Triggers. This is a great resource to find out more on triggers within the home, workplace, and outdoors.