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Asthma is a condition that makes it difficult to breathe. It usually begins with exposure to a "trigger," which is exposure to something (usually an external allergen) that causes the airways to react. During an asthma attack, the lung airways tighten and fill with fluid. The resulting effects are chest tightness, wheezing, breathlessness, and coughing. Asthma attacks can vary in severity and triggers vary person to person. There is no cure for asthma, but you can manage it through proper medication and avoiding things that trigger your asthma.
In 2014, 6.3 million children under 18 years of age (8.6%) and 17.7 million adults (7.4%) in the United States were reported to currently have asthma. The CDC National Asthma Control Program reported that in 2012 there were 10.5 million doctor visits for asthma, and in 2011 there were 1.8 million emergency visit for asthma. In 2014, there were 3,651 deaths due to asthma. Since there is no cure for asthma, it is a health burden that stays with people for their whole lives. This translates into lifelong costs for medication and treatment.

In New Jersey, over 600,000 adults (9.0%) and 167,000 children (8.7%) currently have asthma. Asthma affects all races, ages and genders. More boys have asthma than girls, but in adulthood, more women are diagnosed with asthma than men. Blacks, Hispanics and urban residents are more likely to be affected with asthma symptoms, as are individuals with a family history of the disease.
Asthma triggers can come from a variety of sources, such as outdoor allergens, chemicals used in certain occupations, vigorous exercise, or even some medical conditions. Some common triggers include
  • dust mites
  • pollen
  • secondhand smoke
  • mold
  • air pollution and smoke
  • strenuous exercise
  • stress
  • pets
  • cockroaches

It is important to remember that triggers vary from person to person.
There are many factors that influence the risk of developing asthma. The CDC reports that risk is increased in the following areas
  • Gender: For children, boys are more likely to have asthma. However, for adults, women are more likely to have asthma.
  • Age: Young adults ages 18-24 are more likely to have asthma when compared with older adults.
  • Race and ethnicity: For children, Black children are twice as likely to have asthma than White children. For adults, multiracial and Black adults have a higher risk than White adults.
  • Education: Adults who did not graduate high school have a higher risk than adults who did graduate high school or college.
  • Income: People with incomes below $75,000 per year are more likely to have asthma than those who have greater incomes.
  • Behavior: Smoking increases the risk of asthma as does obesity.
Even though asthma has no cure, you can reduce the risk of severe complications, hospitalizations, and death due to asthma by properly taking prescribed medication and knowing your triggers. When you know your triggers, you can take action to avoid them and preventing asthma attacks.

Once you are diagnosed with asthma, your healthcare provider will advise you on how to properly manage it. Asthma can usually be managed in an outpatient setting, reducing the need for emergency department visits. The majority of problems associated with asthma, including emergency department visits, are preventable if asthma is managed according to established guidelines. Effective management includes control of exposures to factors that trigger exacerbations, adequate pharmacological management, continual monitoring of the disease, and patient education in asthma care.
Asthma data come from multiple sources:

  • Inpatient Hospitalization and Emergency Department Visits: The NJ Hospital Discharge Data Collection System receives detailed information about all inpatient hospitalization and emergency department visits from NJ hospitals.

  • Prevalence: The New Jersey Behavioral Risk Factor Survey (BRFS) tracks the prevalence of asthma annually. The survey also tracks: the percentage of adults with asthma who miss work or limit their activities due to asthma; percentage of adults with asthma who have an asthma management from a health professional; and percentage of adults with asthma who have been advised by a health professional to change things in their home, school or work to improve their asthma.

  • Mortality: Death certificates are a fundamental source of demographic, geographic, and cause-of-death information. Deaths are reported as being due to asthma when asthma was the underlying cause of death.
  • Disease Prevalence (NJBRFS)

    Emergency Department and Inpatient Hospitalizations:

    In the Diagnosis step of the query builder screen, select "Hospital Discharges for Select Health Indicators," and then select "Asthma - Primary Diagnosis" or "Asthma - Secondary Diagnosis."


    In the Cause of Death step of the query builder screen, select "Asthma" under "NCHS 113 selected causes of death."

    The information provided above is from the Department of Health's NJSHAD web site ( The information published on this website may be reproduced without permission. Please use the following citation: " Retrieved Mon, 21 May 2018 18:42:09 from Department of Health, New Jersey State Health Assessment Data Web site: ".

    Content updated: Mon, 30 Apr 2018 05:01:10 EDT