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What is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic disease that affects the airways that carry oxygen in and out of the lungs. People with asthma have inflamed airways. Frequently, this inflammation does not cause symptoms. Other times, the lung passages undergo spasms resulting in symptoms such as shortness of breath, coughing, chest tightness, and wheezing. The severity of those symptoms can range from mild to life-threatening.

Though a person can get asthma at any age, it is more likely to be diagnosed in childhood than in adulthood. Once a person has asthma, it doesn't go away, although it may get better at times and they may stop experiencing symptoms. There is no cure for asthma. With proper management, most people can control their condition so that symptoms occur infrequently and have a minimal impact on their daily life.

Asthma is the most common chronic disease among children in the U.S. Five million Californians have been diagnosed with asthma at some point in their lives. Almost 3 million currently have Asthma. Asthma rates increased dramatically during the last three decades. Every year more than 20,000 Californians are hospitalized because of asthma and African-Americans are at greater risk for hospitalization and death compared to other racial groups. Hospitalization rates among children are much higher than other age groups.

To track asthma in California we use information related to the number of individuals who seek medical care because of their asthma. In our data query, we display the number of asthma-related emergency department visits and hospitalizations. We receive this data from the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, who collects this data from hospitals across California.