The Facts: Asthma & Allergies


United States – General/Diagnosis

Asthma symptoms affect an estimated 21.9 million Americans andare one of the leading causes of work and school absences. The cost in direct medical care and indirect expenses totals more than $16.1 billion each year. Although the exact cause of asthma remains unknown, many treatment options are available to control and reverse this chronic inflammation of the lungs’ airways.

Although no cure exists for asthma, effective treatments are available. We learn more about asthma every year and newer, more effective drugs are being developed. As a result, most people with asthma live normal, productive lives. Research is continuing, and the outlook is bright. For personalized information about an asthma diagnosis, talk to an allergist.

  • The number of people with asthma continues to grow. One in 12 people (about 25 million, or 8% of the U.S. population) had asthma in 2009, compared with 1 in 14 (about 20 million, or 7%) in 2001.2
  • More than half (53%) of people with asthma had an asthma attack in 2008. More children (57%) than adults (51%) had an attack. 185 children and 3,262 adults died from asthma in 2007.2
  • About 1 in 10 children (10%) had asthma and 1 in 12 adults (8%) had asthma in 2009. Women were more likely than men and boys more likely than girls to have asthma.2
  • In 2010, 3 out of 5 children who have asthma had one or more asthma attacks in the previous 12 months.6
  • For the period 2008–2010, asthma prevalence was higher among children than adults.5
  • In 2008 less than half of people with asthma reported being taught how to avoid triggers. Almost half (48%) of adults who were taught how to avoid triggers did not follow most of this advice.2
  • About 1 in 9 (11%) non-Hispanic blacks of all ages and about 1 in 6 (17%) of non-Hispanic black children had asthma in 2009, the highest rate among racial/ethnic groups.2
  • For the period 2008–2010, asthma prevalence was higher among multiple-race, black, and American Indian or Alaska Native persons than white persons.5
  • From 2001 through 2009 asthma rates rose the most among black children, almost a 50% increase.2From 2001 through 2009, the greatest rise in asthma rates was among black children (almost a 50% increase).2
  • Asthma cost the US about $3,300 per person with asthma each year from 2002 to 2007 in medical expenses, missed school and work days, and early deaths.2
  • Asthma costs in the US grew from about $53 billion in 2002 to about $56 billion in 2007, about a 6% increase.2
  • More than half (59%) of children and one-third (33%) of adults who had an asthma attack missed school or work because of asthma in 2008. On average, in 2008 children missed 4 days of school and adults missed 5 days of work because of asthma.2
Health Care Visits/Hospital
  • In 2008, asthma hospitalizations were 1.5 times higher among female than male patients.4
  • From 2001 to 2009, health care visits for asthma per 100 persons with asthma declined in primary care settings, while asthma emergency department visit and hospitalization rates were stable.5
  • For the period 2007–2009, black persons had higher rates for asthma emergency department visits and hospitalizations per 100 persons with asthma than white persons, and a higher asthma death rate per 1,000 persons with asthma. Compared with adults, children had higher rates for asthma primary care and emergency department visits, similar hospitalization rates, and lower death rates.5
Morbidity Rates
  • More than half (53%) of people with asthma had an asthma attack in 2008. More children (57%) than adults (51%) had an attack. 185 children and 3,262 adults died from asthma in 2007.2
  • Asthma was linked to 3,447 deaths (about 9 per day) in 2007.2
  • The prevalence of asthma in different countries varies widely, but the disparity is narrowing due to rising prevalence in low and middle income countries and plateauing in high income countries.3
  • An estimated 300 million people worldwide suffer from asthma, with 250,000 annual deaths attributed to the disease.1
  • It is estimated that the number of people with asthma will grow by more than 100 million by 2025.1
  • Workplace conditions, such as exposure to fumes, gases or dust, are responsible for 11% of asthma cases worldwide.1
  • About 70% of asthmatics also have allergies.1
  • Approximately 250,000 people die prematurely each year from asthma. Almost all of these deaths are avoidable.1
  • Occupational asthma contributes significantly to the global burden of asthma, since the condition accounts for approximately 15% of asthma amongst adults.1
How Allergy Shots Can Help Control Increasing Asthma Rates
  • Asthma, a chronic inflammation of the lung airways characterized by wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and shortness of breath, affects 17 million Americans.
  • Since 1980, asthma has increased by 160 percent among children age 4 and younger.
  • Approximately 80 percent of all asthma in children and half of all asthma in adults is caused by allergy.
  • An international conference, "Immunotherapy in Allergic Asthma," hosted by the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI) in 2000, concluded that immunotherapy (allergy shots) is an effective treatment for allergic asthma, and can prevent the onset of asthma in children with allergic rhinitis.
  • The Preventive Allergy Treatment (PAT) study, published in the February 2002 issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI), confirms the ACAAI conference conclusions. The study documents that immunotherapy reduces the risk of developing asthma and reduces lung airway inflammation in children with hay fever, a condition that predisposes them to asthma.
  • The study followed 205 patients ages 6 to 14 from six pediatric centers in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Austria and Germany; a total of 191 patients completed the study. The children all had proven allergies to birch or grass pollen or both. Before the start of immunotherapy, more than 20 percent (40 of 191) children had asthma symptoms during pollen season, even though they initially reported no history of asthma; 151 children had no asthma symptoms.
  • The children were randomly assigned to receive either medications alone to control their symptoms or those medications and allergy shots that treated their allergic condition; they were tested for symptoms of asthma after three years of treatment. Among those who had no asthma prior to treatment, only 24 percent of those receiving allergy shots (19 of 79) developed asthma, compared to 44 percent of those who did not receive shots (32 of 72).
  1. World Health Organization. Global surveillance, prevention and control of chronic respiratory diseases: a comprehensive approach, 2007.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Vital Signs, May 2011.
  3. World Allergy Organization (WAO) White Book on Allergy, 2011.
  4. National Hospital Discharge Survey, Mortality Component of the National Vital Statistics System, National Center for Health Statistics, CDC, 2011.
  5. Trends in Asthma Prevalence, Health Care, and Mortality in the United States, 2001-2010, CDC, May 2012.
  6. Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. America’s Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2012. Washington, DC: U.S.


Allergies are a major cause of illness in the United States. As many as 50 million people—about one in five—have allergies. This includes millions of children. If you have an allergy, your immune system treats whatever you are allergic to as an invader and releases chemicals to defend against it. It is these chemicals released by the body that cause allergic symptoms that can range from mild to severe. Sometimes they are just annoying. Sometimes they are deadly.

Allergic reactions can affect your nose, throat, eyes, lungs, skin, stomach or intestines. Rarely, they can affect the whole body. Whenever you are exposed to something you are allergic to, your body will trigger an allergic response again. That is why it's important to know what you are allergic to and take steps to treat or avoid a reaction.

Allergists are the doctors who have the specialized training and experience to find the source of your suffering and help you find relief.

Allergic Rhinitis
  • Roughly 7.8% of people 18 and over in the U.S. have hay fever.4
  • In 2010, 10% of U.S. children aged 17 years and under suffered from hay fever in the past 12 months.1
  • In 2010, White children in the U.S. were more likely to have had hay fever (10%) than black children (7%).1
  • Worldwide, allergic rhinitis affects between 10% and 30 % of the population.3
  • Worldwide, sensitization (IgE antibodies) to foreign proteins in the environment is present in up to 40% of the population.3
Drug Allergy
  • Worldwide, adverse drug reactions may affect up to 10% of the world’s population and affect up to 20% of all hospitalized patients.3
  • Worldwide, drugs may be responsible for up to 20% of fatalities due to anaphylaxis.3
Food Allergy
  • Findings from a 2009 to 2010 study of 38,480 children (infant to 18) indicated:2
  • 8% have a food allergy
  • Approximately 6% aged 0-2 years have a food allergy
  • About 9% aged 3-5 years have a food allergy
  • Nearly 8% aged 6-10 years have a food allergy
  • Approximately 8% aged 11-13 years have a food allergy
  • More than 8.5% aged 14-18 years have a food allergy
  • 38.7% of food allergic children have a history of severe reactions
  • 30.4% of food allergic children have multiple food allergies
  • Of food allergic children, peanut is the most prevalent allergen, followed by milk and then shellfish
General Allergy
  • Worldwide, the rise in prevalence of allergic diseases has continued in the industrialized world for more than 50 years.3
  • Worldwide, sensitization rates to one or more common allergens among school children are currently approaching 40%-50%.3
Insect Allergy
  • Worldwide, insect allergy fatal reactions occur in up to 50% of individuals who have no documented history of a previous systemic reaction.3
  • Roughly 13% of people 18 and over in the U.S. have sinusitis.4
Skin Allergy
  • In 2010, 13% of U.S. children aged 17 years and under suffered from skin allergies in the past 12 months.1
  • In 2010, Black children in the U.S. were more likely to have had skin allergies (17%) than white (12%) or Asian (10%) children.1
  • Worldwide, urticaria occurs with lifetime prevalence above 20%.3
  1. Bloom B, Cohen RA, Freeman G. Summary health statistics for U.S. children: National Health Interview Survey, 2010. National Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Stat 10(250). 2011.
  2. Gupta, R, et al. The Prevalence, Severity and Distribution of Childhood Food Allergy in the United States. Pediatrics 2011; 10.1542/ped.2011-0204.
  3. World Health Organization. White Book on Allergy 2011-2012 Executive Summary. By Prof. Ruby Pawankar, MD, PhD, Prof. Giorgio Walkter Canonica, MD, Prof. Stephen T. Holgate, BSc, MD, DSc, FMed Sci and Prof. Richard F. Lockey, MD.
  4. Summary Health Statistics for U.S. Adults: National Health Interview Survey, 2010. By Jeannine S. Schiller, M.P.H., Jacqueline W. Lucas, M.P.H., Brian W. Ward, PhD and Jennifer A. Peregory, M.P.H., Division of Health Interview Statistics.