According to the latest information available from the American Lung Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), approximately 22.9 million people in the US have been diagnosed with asthma, with at least 6.7 million of them children under the age of 18. Both in the United States, and in other developed countries, there has been a significant increase in asthma both as an illness and a cause of death. Yet outdoor air quality has improved and there have been declines in mortality due to other pulmonary diseases, such as tuberculosis and pneumonia.
Some scientists theorize that the decline in serious illness may be one factor in the increase of allergic asthma. They believe it is possible that an under-utilized immune system may overreact to lesser irritants, inappropriately triggering the release of histamine and other inflammatory substances in the lungs.
Other researchers believe that the increased amount of time children are spending indoors is increasing their exposure to carpeting and other allergen-triggers.
Allergens that can trigger asthma include:
- animal protein
- house/dust mites
Irritants that can trigger asthma include:
- strong odors and sprays, such as perfumes, household cleaners, cooking fumes, paints and varnishes
- chemicals such as coal, chalk dust, or talcum powder
- air pollutants
- chemical exposure on the job, such as occupational vapors, dust, gases or fumes
- tobacco smoke and secondhand smoke
- wood smoke
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