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Asthma Health Center

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Asthma in Adults More Than Doubles Over Two Decades

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The number of people afflicted with asthma in the U.S. more than doubled to almost 15 million from 1980 to 1996, with the biggest increase coming in children under 5. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says that even if rates were to stabilize, asthma would continue to be a profound public health problem, responsible for 9 million visits to health-care providers each year, along with more than 1.8 million emergency room visits and more than 460,000 hospitalizations.

Improved awareness of asthma does not appear to be responsible for the increase the Scottish researchers saw in the type of asthma that occurs in conjunction with allergies, the study says, but it may account for a rise in non-allergic asthma. The researchers say more study is needed to establish which types of asthma are becoming more common among adults.

Though the mechanisms that cause asthma are complex, some experts believe that indoor allergens are largely responsible for the increase in asthma. There also may be a genetic component. Research has not yet identified how to prevent asthma.

But the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology says sufferers can minimize symptoms by avoiding their "triggers" and by working with a doctor to develop a treatment plan, which may include medications to keep symptoms at bay.

For more information from WebMD, visit our Diseases and Conditions page on Asthma.

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