Childhood Asthma

State of Children's Health in Wisconsin

Childhood Asthma

What is the definition?

The American Lung Association notes that “asthma is a chronic inflammation of the airways with reversible episodes of obstruction, caused by an increased reaction of the airways to various stimuli,” ranging from “viral infections to allergies, to irritating gases and particles in the air.”

While breathing problems from asthma “typically occur in episodes or attacks, the inflammation underlying asthma is continuous.”

Asthma episodes result in narrowed airways due to “swelling of the lining, tightening of the muscle, and increased secretion of mucus in the airway…the narrowed airway is responsible for the difficulty in breathing with the familiar wheeze.”

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How many children are affected?

  • During 2009, among Wisconsin children 0-14, there were 6,441 visits to the emergency department and 1,473 inpatient hospitalizations with asthma listed as the primary diagnosis.1
  • Data from the 2010 Wisconsin Youth Tobacco Survey public middle school and high school students, indicate a lifetime prevalence of 25.8 percent among black, non-Hispanic children and a prevalence of 12.0 percent among white, non-Hispanic children.1

Snapshot of Asthma Risk Factors among Wisconsin Children

Data from the 2010 Wisconsin Youth Tobacco Survey indicate that students who reported spending time each of the previous seven days in the same room with a smoker reported a higher lifetime prevalence of asthma compared with those who reported spending no time in the previous seven days in the same room with a smoker.1

Lifetime Prevalence of Asthma by Tobacco Smoking Exposure Among Wisconsin Public Middle and High School Students (2010)1

Seven days spent in room with smoker 17%
No days spent in room with smoker 12.1%


What are strategies to help?

  • Parents can teach themselves and their children how to manage asthma and asthma attacks and how to avoid asthma triggers. Parents can also ensure that children are not exposed to secondhand smoke by not allowing people to smoke inside the home or car; if parents smoke, they should try to quit or smoke outside.
  • Health care providers can include the following activities in their routine assessment and treatment of children with asthma: developing and reviewing an asthma action plan and educating parents and children how to avoid asthma triggers and how to correctly use prescribed asthma medications and equipment.
  • Schools can ensure that students with asthma have quick-relief inhalers readily available for use at school, and that they maintain up-to-date student asthma action plans.

Learn more at:


  1. Burden of Asthma in Wisconsin 2010