Is It True That A Person Can Die Of Asthma?

Yes, asthma can be fatal. Thousands of people die each year in the United States from uncontrolled asthma. Asthma is a highly treatable disease. Death from asthma is especially tragic because each one of those deaths is theoretically 100% preventable. Analysis of recent trends in the United States suggests that after decades of increasing, the number of deaths from asthma appears to have leveled off and is beginning to decrease. In 2001, there were 4269 reported deaths from asthma in the United States—more than 11 deaths a day! The 4055 recorded deaths from asthma in 2003 suggested a downward trend, which was further supported by data that are more recent.

By 2006, the reported death rate from asthma was 1.2 per 100,000 population, corresponding to the fact that 3613 persons died of asthma in the United States that year. The statistics further reveal that asthma deaths are rare in children and that the highest death rate from asthma was in Puerto Ricans. According to the CDC, “Puerto Ricans were the most likely to die from asthma and had asthma death rates 360% higher than non-Hispanic white people. Non-Hispanic black people had an asthma death rate 200% higher than non-Hispanic white people did. Females had an asthma death rate 45% higher than males.”

Despite the encouraging trends, the statistics remain shocking; it indicates that on average, almost ten individuals die from asthma each day in the United States. These deaths occur at a time when science has made enormous strides in the understanding of asthma. Never before has healthcare been so sophisticated. Never before has the medical profession had access to such highly effective, safe medications and treatments for asthma.

Yet, undiagnosed and inadequately treated asthma continues to represent a significant public health burden. Every single asthma death is a failure at one or multiple levels. One such common failure is ignoring new or increasing asthma symptoms, for example. Experts have turned their attention to factors responsible for fatal asthma, as detailed in the next.