8 Things You Might Not Know About Asthma

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Sarah Lewis, PharmD on April 15, 2020
  • woman-using-inhaler-outside
    Asthma Information
    It isn’t always possible to breathe easy when you have asthma. More than 8% of American children and adults have the disease and know this well. But there’s a lot more to asthma than just difficulty breathing during an asthma attack. Here are some asthma facts you might not know.
  • Young child using asthma nebulizer while playing with blocks
    1. Asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases in children.
    More than 6 million children in the United States have asthma. Nearly half of these children miss one or more days of school each year because of their disease. The latest data from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) show this percentage has been going down. But kids with asthma still missed 13.8 million school days. This impacts both kids and their parents, who may miss work to care for their child.
  • Doctor checks child's rash
    2. Kids with eczema are more likely to develop asthma.
    Eczema and asthma are both atopic diseases. They are part of a group of conditions doctors call the atopic march. Hay fever and food allergies are also in the atopic march. People with atopic diseases have an overactive immune response to allergens. Having one atopic condition increases the risk of developing another one. About 50% of people with severe eczema will also go on to develop asthma.
  • Young man jogging outdoors on frost-covered path in winter
    3. Not all asthma is allergic.
    Most, but not all, cases of asthma are allergic. About 90% of children and 50% of adults with asthma have allergic asthma. Allergens are the irritants that trigger symptoms. Examples include animal dander, dust mites, mold spores, and pollen. In people with non-allergic asthma, the irritants may include cold air, exercise, smoke, chemicals, or strong odors or fumes. People with allergic asthma can react to these triggers as well. So even allergic asthma isn’t always an allergic reaction.
  • woman coughing into hand
    4. Wheezing isn’t the only symptom of asthma.
    Wheezing is one of the most common symptoms of asthma. But you may not always have wheezing or be able to hear it. It turns out that a chronic cough may be a more noticeable symptom. Since asthma tends to act up at night, coughing a lot at night can be a sign of uncontrolled asthma. If you notice this, it’s probably time to see your doctor. Getting your asthma under control can help you get a good night’s sleep.
  • hands-holding-variety-of-pills
    5. Inhalers aren’t the only treatment for asthma.
    Inhaled medicines are an important part of an asthma treatment plan. Rescue inhalers work quickly to relax the airways and relieve symptoms. And maintenance inhalers are key to long-term control of the disease. But inhalers aren’t the only option for maintaining control. There are also oral medicines for preventing attacks. Injectable biologics may also be an option if other medicines can’t keep your asthma under control.
  • man outdoors using rescue inhaler
    6. Most people don’t use inhalers correctly.
    Research from 2017 found that 87% of adults made at least one critical mistake when using their inhaler. The research included different types and brands of inhalers. The most common mistakes were not exhaling beforehand, not using proper mouth position, and not holding the breath after inhaling. It’s important to know there are both open- and closed-mouth techniques. And the best option is to use a spacer or chamber. But even that has a proper technique. An asthma educator is the best resource for getting it right.
  • coughing in bed
    7. “Rules of Two” can check your asthma control.
    Baylor College of Medicine has a quick way for you to check your control. It’s the Rules of Two. Do you use your rescue inhaler more than two times a week? Do you have symptoms that wake you at night more than two times a month? Do you refill your rescue inhaler more than two times a year? Yes, to any of these means it’s probably time to schedule a visit with your doctor. Your asthma treatment plan may need adjustment.
  • young woman reaching desperately for asthma inhaler
    8. Uncontrolled asthma is dangerous.
    According to the CDC, 62% of adults with asthma have uncontrolled disease. And more than half of children with asthma are uncontrolled. Uncontrolled asthma isn’t just uncomfortable, it puts you at risk of complications. It can keep you home from school or work and send you to the doctor’s office. Severe asthma attacks can put you in the hospital. Severe attacks can progress quickly and lead to respiratory arrest and even death. Use your asthma action plan to monitor your asthma zone. Find help if you’re in the red zone or danger zone.
Asthma Information | 8 Things You Might Not Know About Asthma

About The Author

Sarah Lewis is a pharmacist and a medical writer with over 25 years of experience in various areas of pharmacy practice. Sarah holds a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy degree from West Virginia University and a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy. She completed Pharmacy Practice Residency training at the University of Pittsburgh/VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System. 
  1. Allergic March. World Allergy Organization. http://www.worldallergy.org/education-and-programs/education/allergic-disease-resource-center/professionals/the-allergic-march
  2. Allergic Asthma. Genetics Home Reference. https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/allergic-asthma
  3. Assess and Monitor Your Asthma Control. American Lung Association. https://www.lung.org/lung-health-and-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/asthma/living-with-asthma/managing-asthma/assess-and-monitor-your.html
  4. Asthma. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/asthma
  5. Asthma. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. https://www.aafa.org/asthma.aspx
  6. Asthma Action Plan. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/asthma/actionplan.html
  7. Asthma-related Missed School Days among Children aged 5–17 Years. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/asthma/asthma_stats/missing_days.htm
  8. Atopy Definition. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/conditions-dictionary/atopy
  9. Chrystyn H, van der Palen J, Sharma R, et al. Device errors in asthma and COPD: systematic literature review and meta-analysis. NPJ Prim Care Respir Med. 2017;27(1):22.
10 Conditions Related to Eczema. National Eczema Association. https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/related-conditions/
11 Learn How to Control Asthma. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/asthma/faqs.htm
12 National Asthma Data. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/asthma/most_recent_national_asthma_data.htm
13 Uncontrolled Asthma among Adults, 2016. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/asthma/asthma_stats/uncontrolled-asthma-adults.htm
14 Uncontrolled Asthma Among Children, 2012–2014. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/asthma/asthma_stats/uncontrolled-asthma-children.htm
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Apr 7
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.