Asthma, ADHD Rates High Among American Kids

New Report Shows Many U.S. Children Face Health Challenges

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April 1, 2004 -- Nine million American children under age 18 have asthma and nearly half of them may not have their disease under control and have suffered an asthma attack in the last year. That's just one of the findings of a new report on children's health from the CDC.

The report is based on 2002 data from the CDC's annual National Health Interview Survey and provides national estimates for a variety of health measures affecting children under 18 years of age, including: asthma, allergies, learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, medication use, missed school days because of illness, contact with health care professionals, and access to dental care.

Based on the data collected, the researchers estimate that 12% of children under age 18 have ever been diagnosed with asthma, and boys were more likely than girls to develop the condition (14% vs. 10%). Children in poor families were also more likely to have never been diagnosed with asthma (16%) than those in families that were not poor (11%), and non-Hispanic black children were twice as likely to have had an asthma attack in the last year when compared with Hispanic children.

Other highlighted estimates from the report include:

  • Allergies: 12% (9 million) of American children suffered from respiratory allergies in 2002. Allergies were more common among children living in the South than in other regions of the U.S.
  • Learning disabilities and ADHD: Almost 5 million children younger than 18 had been diagnosed with a learning disability and nearly 4 million had been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Boys were twice as likely to be diagnosed with ADHD as girls (10% vs. 4%).
  • Medication use: Nearly 10 million children had to take regular prescription medication for at least three months in 2002. Adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 were most likely to be on regular medication, and 15% of boys were on regular medication compared with 12% of girls.
  • Missed school days: One-quarter of children between ages 5 and 17 didn't miss any school because of illness in 2002, but 6% missed 11 days or more over the past year because of illness or injury.
  • Contact with health care provider: About 3.9 million or about 5% of U.S. children did not have a regular place for health care. Hispanic children were two to four times more likely to lack a usual place for health care compared with black or white children (12% vs. 5% and 3%, respectively). Three out of four children reported contact with a doctor or other health professional in the last six months. Fifteen percent of uninsured children had not had contact with a doctor or other health care provider in more than two years.
  • Dental care: More than 4 million children (6%) had unmet dental needs because their families could not afford dental care.


The 2002 National Health Interview Survey was based on face-to-face interviews with adults in 36,000 households in which data was collected for 13,570 children. Data in the report was weighted to provide national health estimates.

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SOURCE: National Health Interview Survey, CDC.

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