Skip directly to searchSkip directly to the site navigationSkip directly to the page's main content

Asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease


Asthma is a condition lung disease that makes it hard to breathe. During an asthma attack airways become narrow making breathing difficult. Asthma attacks can vary in severity. Symptoms of an attack may include coughing, wheezing, or chest tightness. There is no cure for asthma, but it can be managed through proper medication and by avoiding things that trigger your asthma. An asthma attack usually begins with exposure to a "trigger," which is exposure to something (usually an external allergen or irritant) that causes the airways to react. Asthma triggers vary from person to person. Some common triggers include:
  • secondhand smoke
  • dust mites
  • outdoor air pollution and smoke
  • pests (e.g., cockroaches, mice)
  • pets
  • mold
  • pollen
  • strong fragrances
  • chemicals (e.g., household cleaning products)
  • strenuous exercise
  • hyperventilation
  • stress

Three things happen during an asthma attack that make it hard to breathe:
  1. The lining of the airways (bronchial tubes) become inflamed and swollen.
  2. The muscles around the airway tighten.
  3. Excess mucus is produced.

In 2020, Utah had a higher adult asthma prevalence rate when compared to the national average (10.8% vs. 9.3%).

People who work in school-based health centers may be able to help children manage their asthma. This includes helping reduce exposures to environmental asthma triggers, education, case management, improving indoor air quality, improving students' home environments, and improving outdoor air quality around the school and community. The Public Health Insitiute developed a guide for school-based health centers. For more information see the Asthma Environmental Intervention Guide for School-Based Health Centers.
There are many factors that influence the risk of developing asthma. The CDC reports that risk is increased in the following areas:
  • Sex: Males are more likely to have asthma in children. However, for adults, females are more likely to have asthma.
  • Age: Young adults ages 18-24 are more likely to have asthma when compared with older adults.
  • Race and ethnicity: Black children are twice as likely to have asthma than White children. Multiracial and Black adults have a higher risk than White adults. Asthma attacks have decreased in children of all races since 2001.
  • Education: Adults who did not graduate high school have a higher risk than adults who did graduate high school or college.
  • Income: People with incomes below $75,000 per year are more likely to have asthma than those who have greater incomes.
  • Behavior: Smoking increases the risk of asthma as does obesity.

Data regarding asthma hospitalizations and emergency department visits come from the Office of Health Care Statistics in the Utah Department of Health. Asthma prevalence data comes from the Utah Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey. Asthma management data comes from the Asthma Call-Back Survey (ACBS). The BRFSS and ACBS are conducted by the Survey Center in the Office of Public Health Assessment.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

COPD refers to a group of lung diseases that cause reduced airflow in the lungs, making it difficult to breathe. The most common lung conditions that make up COPD are emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and wheezing. COPD is a progressive disease, which means that it gets worse over time. COPD also has no cure. For this reason, COPD can result in major long-term disability and can limit an individual's ability to perform routine activities. People who have COPD have a higher risk of getting respiratory infections such as colds, pneumonia, and the flu. COPD plays a large role in death and disability in the United States; in 2014, it was the third leading cause of death. Approximately 15.7 million Americans have been diagnosed with COPD. COPD cannot be cured and it gets progressively worse over time, resulting in major long-term disability. Treatment is necessary in order to reduce the symptoms and help slow down its progression. This can include medicine, surgery, and oxygen therapy. COPD can also lead to other health issues such as heart disease, lung cancer, and high blood pressure.

Risk factors for COPD include the following:
  • Smoking: Tobacco smoke is the greatest risk factor in developing COPD. The best way to prevent COPD is to not smoke or to stop smoking if you already do so.
  • Secondhand smoke: Secondhand smoke is the smoke that comes from someone else's burning and smoking of tobacco products. Secondhand smoke can also increase the risk of COPD.
  • Asthma: People with asthma, or who have had asthma, may have an increased risk of developing COPD.
  • Genetics: Some people may have a rare genetic mutation called alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency, which may cause COPD.
  • Workplace exposure: People who work in certain settings may be exposed more frequently to chemicals, dust, or other irritants that can harm the lungs.
There are many things you can do to prevent COPD:
  • The best way to prevent COPD is to quit smoking. Even if you have already been diagnosed with COPD, quitting smoking can improve symptoms and possibly avoid worse complications.
  • Avoid secondhand smoke.
  • Avoid other air pollutants and irritants. Use personal protective gear at work to limit your exposure to lung irritants and chemicals.
  • Prevent and treat lung infections. Certain vaccines, like the flu vaccine and pneumonia immunizations, are important in preventing chronic lung infections. Current respiratory infections should be treated with antibiotics if possible.
Hospital admission and emergency department visit data for COPD come from the Office of Health Care Statistics in the Utah Department of Health.
If COPD can be caught and diagnosed early, treatment can begin earlier before progression worsens.


Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Find additional links to data tables, charts, and more detailed information related to asthma and COPD on the Asthma and COPD topic pages of the Utah Environmental Public Health Tracking web portal.

Asthma - Adults (BRFSS)

Asthma - Adolescents (YRBS)

Asthma and Pregnancy (PRAMS)


- Asthma, Diagnosis - NCHS 113 Leading Causes: Asthma
- COPD, Diagnosis - ICD-9 Codes 490-492, 496

Emergency Department (ED) Visits:

- Asthma, Diagnosis - NCHS 113 Leading Causes: Asthma
- COPD, Diagnosis - ICD-9 Codes 490-492, 496


- Asthma, NCHS 113 Leading Causes: Asthma
- COPD, ICD-10 Codes J40-J44
Find additional links to data queries related to asthma and COPD on the Asthma and COPD topic pages of the Utah Environmental Public Health Tracking web portal.

The information provided above is from the Department of Health's Center for Health Data IBIS-PH web site ( The information published on this website may be reproduced without permission. Please use the following citation: " Retrieved Fri, 01 December 2023 22:33:00 from Department of Health, Center for Health Data, Indicator-Based Information System for Public Health Web site: ".

Content updated: Mon, 10 Apr 2023 09:26:39 MDT