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The Florida Department of Health works to protect, promote & improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county, & community efforts.

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What is Asthma?

Contact the Florida Asthma Program

Asthma is a chronic disease that involves inflammation of the lungs. Airways swell and restrict airflow in and out of the lungs, making it hard to breathe. The word asthma comes from the Greek word for “panting”. People with asthma pant and wheeze because they cannot get enough air into their lungs.

To understand asthma, it is helpful to know how the airways work. The airways are tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs. People with asthma have inflamed airways and the inflammation makes the airways swollen and very sensitive. The airways tend to react strongly to certain inhaled substances.

When the airways react, the muscles around them tighten, causing a narrowing of the airways. This causes less air flow into the lungs. Cells in the airways might make more mucus than usual which can further narrow the airways.

Approximately 1 in 8 Florida adults and 1 in 5 Florida children have asthma. However, asthma is more common and more severe among children; women; low-income, inner-city residents; and African American and Puerto Rican communities. In addition to considerable impacts on quality of life, the economic cost of asthma is sizeable. Costs including direct medical costs (such as hospital admissions and the cost of pharmaceuticals) and indirect costs (such as time lost from work, school absenteeism, and premature death), weigh heavily on individuals, the health care system, and schools.