Asthma is a relatively common disease among children, but it can have serious consequences. Although plenty of kids are able to handle it just fine with the help of a trusty inhaler, others aren't always able to access the proper treatment. So as the rates of asthma continue to rise across the world, global asthma-related mortality rates among kids are also likely to grow, even though most asthma deaths are preventable.
The respiratory disease, which leads to breathlessness and wheezing, is estimated to affect 235 million people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. That already-high number is only projected to increase by an estimated 100 million by 2025. While the rates of asthma-related deaths in children are not high — the elderly are much more likely to die from asthma than the very young — they are not negligible.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2014, 161 children under the age of 15 died for asthma-related reasons in the United States. And those rates tend to be higher in lower-income countries, where children don't have the same kind of access to lifesaving medical care. What makes those numbers even sadder is the fact that doctors believe 9 out of 10 asthma deaths are preventable with the proper care.
Worldwide, 250,000 deaths are attributed to asthma every year. And while experts aren't completely sure what causes asthma, they do know that risk factors for developing the disease include exposure to allergens, chemical irritants, and air pollution.
The level of that last item on the list has been rising at an "alarming" rate, according to The Guardian, particularly in cities in developing countries, which are also less likely to have access to comprehensive medical care for all the children who will be affected by the growing air pollution. Or, as Flavia Bustreo, the WHO assistant director general, was quoted as saying,
As urban air quality declines, the risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma, increases for the people who live in them. When dirty air blankets our cities the most vulnerable urban populations - the youngest, oldest and poorest - are the most impacted.
So, what do we do about it? Perhaps the two most important issues to focus on when it comes to preventing asthma-related deaths are fighting for healthier air (by, for instance, promoting renewable energy), and working toward greater education about and access to proper medical care for the disease.
Then, hopefully, we'll be on our way toward preventing the number of unnecessary deaths from rising.