August 11, 2005

One in six US high school students has asthma-study

By Paul Simao

ATLANTA (Reuters) - One out of every six U.S. high school
students suffers from asthma and more than one-third of those
report having an attack in the previous year, according to a
federal study released on Thursday that suggests schools do
more to manage the potentially fatal lung disease.

Asthma, which is marked by breathing difficulties, coughing
and inflammation of the airways, disproportionately affects
children and adolescents. In some states, it is the leading
cause of absenteeism in schools.

In 2003, an estimated 16.1 percent of those enrolled in
grades 9 through 12 said they were suffering from the disease,
according to a survey of more than 13,000 students by the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nearly 38 percent reported an asthma attack or episode in
the 12 months before the survey, the CDC said.

The current rate of asthma reported by the students was
about double that found in a separate 2003 federal study that
polled parents. CDC researchers said more research was needed
to explain the factors behind the discrepancy.

The Atlanta-based agency, however, urged educators to
develop plans to deal with students' asthma, which can be
triggered by exposure to certain allergens commonly found in
schools, such as chalk dust, mold, and cleaning products.

Teen smoking and exposure to diesel fuel from school buses
also may contribute to attacks in classrooms.

"Schools can help improve asthma management among students
whose asthma is not well-controlled by providing health
services, education and control of environmental triggers," the
CDC said in a weekly health report.

The CDC published its study amid growing debate over the
scope of asthma in the nation. Although overall cases of the
disease rose 75 percent between 1980 and 1998, there are signs
that the disease has stabilized since then.