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Children are hospitalized less often for asthma but more have the disease

Hospitalizations of children principally for asthma fell by almost 60,000 between 1997 and 2006, according to data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). However, the number of children who were admitted to hospitals to treat other conditions but who also had asthma rose by nearly 70,000 during the same period.

In 2006, there were 335,000 hospital stays for children with asthma. In 137,000 cases, the children were admitted specifically to treat asthma. In the remaining 197,000 cases, the children had asthma but were being treated for another illness that is often directly related to asthma (for instance, pneumonia or bronchitis).

AHRQ also found that:

  • Children from poorer communities, where the average income was less than $37,000 a year, were 76 percent more likely to be admitted than those from wealthier communities, where the average income was greater than $37,000 a year (2.7 admissions per 1,000 children versus 1.5 admissions per 1,000 children, respectively).
  • Poor children with asthma as a coexisting illness were 54 percent more likely to be hospitalized than children from wealthier communities (3.5 admissions per 1,000 children versus 2.3 admissions per 1,000 children, respectively).
  • Infants under 1 year of age were four times more likely to be hospitalized for asthma than children aged 15 to 17 (5.1 admissions per 1,000 children compared with 1.8 admissions per 1,000 children).
  • Roughly 27 percent of all children admitted for pneumonia also had asthma, as did 9 percent of those hospitalized for acute bronchitis; and 5 percent for depression or bipolar disease.
  • Asthma is the most common chronic disorder in children. Attacks, usually characterized by shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, chest pain, anxiety, or panic, can be triggered by a wide range of causes including cigarette smoke, animal hair, colds, and allergies. Asthma is usually managed by office doctors but when the disease gets out of control, hospitalization is necessary.

For more information, see Hospital Stays Related to Asthma for Children, 2006. HCUP Statistical Brief #58 (http://www.hcup-us.ahrq.gov/reports/statbriefs/sb58.jsp). The report uses statistics from the 2006 Kids' Inpatient Database, a database of hospital inpatient stays of children that is nationally representative of pediatric inpatient stays in all short-term, non-Federal hospitals. Previous KID databases are for 1997, 2000, and 2003. The data in the KID are for all children, regardless of their type of insurance type or whether they were insured.

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