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Facts & Figures: Asthma in Canada

2. Nice to Know

Asthma is characterized by variable airflow obstruction or airway hyper-responsiveness. 

About 2,500,000 Canadians, or 8.4 per cent of the adult population (over 12 years of age), suffer from asthma (year 2000 estimate). About 845,000 of these are children under 19. (Source for this and most of the following statistics: Respiratory Disease in Canada, 2001). The PHAC web site provides a series of graphs showing asthma trends over time.

Up to age 14, slightly more boys get asthma than girls. But from 15 onwards, it's slightly more common in women (8.9% versus 7.9% across all age groups).

About 5% of people with asthma require hospitalization each year. Asthma accounts for 12% of hospital admissions for children aged 0-4 years, and 10% for those 5-17 years (1997 figures). In 1994 alone, there were 54,532 admissions to Canadian hospitals for the treatment of asthma, and perhaps 150,000 visits to emergency rooms. About 20 children and 500 adults dies from asthma each year. (Source: www.asthma.ca)

Asthma is increasing rapidly.  Here are the reported asthma rates among Canadians aged < 20:

1978 1984 1994 1996 1998 2000 2003
2.3% 3.2% 11.5% 12.2% 15.5% 15.6% 16%

3. Additional Information

Figuring out possible reasons for the increase is fascinating.  It is thought to be due to environmental factors, as it's occurring too rapidly for there to be a change in genetic susceptibility … smoking trends, diet, increased allergic sensitivity and growing pollution are all possibilities, but the jury is still out.
More teenagers are smoking. Since 1990, smoking in teenage girls has risen from 21% to 31%; among boys from 22% to 27%. In Quebec, 45% of 20- to 24-year olds smoke.
Since Canadians spend up to 90% of their time indoors, so exposure to indoor allergens and irritants may play a significant role in triggering asthma episodes.
Some of the most common asthma triggers found indoors include:

Other asthma triggers include: respiratory infections, pollens (trees, grasses, weeds), outdoor air pollution, food allergies, exercise and cold air exposure.

Link to Diagnosing and managing Occupational Asthma
       Do Omega-3 Fatty Acids help in treating asthma?  Results of a meta-analysis

Updated January 19, 2015