FIGURE 4 Estimated range of prevalence of diseases in total U.S. population that are commonly, although not invariably, related to allergy. Darker screen indicates the range in published data.

Source: NHLBI, 1991.

becoming sensitized to indoor allergens, the risk of developing an allergic disease, and the severity of the allergic disease.

  • Population-based and case-control studies suggest that indoor allergens are a major reason for trips to hospital emergency rooms.

  • Effective environmental control reduces disease severity.

Allergy also plays a key but sometimes unrecognized role in triggering asthma, a disease that deserves special public health attention because of its prevalence, documented cost, and potential severity. The following information provides perspective on the magnitude and cost of asthma:

  • An estimated 20 million to 30 million Americans—8 to 12 percent of the American population—have asthma.

  • Among chronic diseases, asthma is the leading cause of school absenteeism.

  • Asthma kills approximately 4,000 people per year (an increase of 33 percent in the past decade); in 1988, 4,580 people died from asthma in the United States.

  • Asthma mortality rates among African Americans are 2–3 times greater than among Caucasions; 5 times greater among children.

  • In 1985, an estimated 1.8 million people required emergency room services for asthma, 48% of these were children under 18 years of age.

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