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Asthma is now the most common long-lasting childhood disease. A person with asthma may have wheezing, shortness of breath, or coughing episodes. Asthma symptoms or “asthma attacks” may lead to hospitalization and, if untreated, in rare cases, death. Although the causes of asthma are not completely known, we do know that children who live in cities are more likely to be hospitalized for asthma. We also know that “triggers” (such as mold, allergens, tobacco smoke, or air pollution) can cause asthma attacks. There is not a cure for asthma, but medication can help control symptoms. Reducing triggers in the child’s environment is very important to reduce the frequency and severity of asthma attacks.
Asthma and Health
Health studies show a clear link between traffic, air pollution, and asthma in children. Children who live in homes close to heavy traffic for long periods of time are more likely to develop asthma. They breathe in traffic-related pollutants, which can be a trigger for an asthma attack. Exhaust from traffic can be a trigger if children live or go to school within 500 feet of a busy road.
Other environmental factors related to asthma include: indoor air quality, tobacco smoke, mold/allergens, age of housing, density of housing, living in rental housing, and pests like cockroaches, dust mites and rodents. Children who had a low birth weight or are currently obese are more likely to have asthma.
Asthma affects many parts of a child’s life. Children with asthma may be absent from school more often or have difficulty with exercise and sports; they also may be hospitalized more often than other children. However, with proper care, people with asthma should be able to live healthy, active lives.
Counting Asthma Hospitalizations
In Minnesota, we can count the number of hospitalizations for asthma by the zip code where the patient lives. The information includes all asthma hospitalizations for people of all ages.
What the Information Shows
When we count hospitalizations for asthma by zip codes along the Central Corridor, there are about 17 hospitalizations for every 10,000 people. If we do the same kind of count for the Twin Cities, there are about 11 for every 10,000 people. For the state of Minnesota, there are about 9 hospitalizations for every 10,000 people. Counting hospitalizations does not tell us how many people have asthma because one person might be hospitalized more than once. Also, some people with asthma may avoid hospitals because they do not have health insurance. (Click on map for a larger image)
Printable information sheet, with map: Asthma Hospitalizations (PDF: 205KB/2 pages)
Click on the map below for a larger image