a set of lungs drawn to look like a globe. An airplane flies around it, and labels show different levels of pollution and pollen in different continents.

Asthma Around The World

Worldwide, 339 million people experience asthma. It is not limited to one part of the world, and you might wonder, "Is asthma is experienced differently in different parts of the world?"

Yes, and no! Asthma plus its associated symptoms and comorbidities are experienced similarly throughout the world. However, there are differences in asthma treatment, government policy, medication accessibility, and education depending on where you are in the world. On our site and Facebook page, we often talk about asthma relative to North America. However, it is important to note that we have community members from all over the world!

All the information referenced in this article is from the Global Asthma Report 2018.1

Asthma around the world

Differences in asthma treatment and access

Throughout the world, inhaled therapy is the primary method of delivering asthma medicine for relief and management. For children, spacers are recommended to be used. If spacers are unavailable or not accessible in certain countries, then a spacer can be crafted out of a plastic bottle. Preventer inhaled corticosteroids and reliever bronchodilators are the standard globally for treating frequent symptoms and acute asthma symptoms.

Unfortunately, some governments throughout the world do not prioritize asthma, and therefore there may be difficulties with access to asthma medications and treatment in some countries. Those in low-income countries may find asthma medication is difficult to access, unavailable, or unreliable. Sudan, for example, has had progress in treatments/medications for asthma, but these treatments and medications are often too high for many to afford.

Certain countries in Africa and Asia have high cases of asthma that are often undiagnosed and untreated, which leads to inconsistent care of symptoms. Chile and Mexico also experience an underdiagnosis of asthma, and Brazil has no national plan for treating asthma despite the high prevalence of this chronic condition.

Triggers and other factors

People with asthma in other countries are affected by the same triggers that you might experience. Mold, smoke, humidity, animals, and air pollution are common asthma and allergy triggers around the world. Interestingly, the Global Asthma Report found, "In low- and middle-income countries the proportion of people with non-allergic asthma is greater than in high-income countries. Also, environmental factors may act differently in these settings."1

In all countries, genetics and environmental factors are risk factors for asthma. From research, it appears that environmental factors (like air pollution and smoke) are more likely than genetics to have caused the large global increase of people with asthma.

Asthma stigmas

If you have asthma, it is likely you have experienced a stigma around asthma. If you have experienced this, know that you are not alone. This occurs in North America but is also very common in countries like China and Malaysia. Stigmas in these countries can contribute to the underdiagnosis of asthma and parents who are unwilling for their child to receive an asthma diagnosis.

Global asthma mortality

Most deaths caused by asthma are preventable, and this applies throughout the world. Globally, asthma contributes to less than 1% of deaths in most countries. Thankfully, asthma deaths significantly decreased during the period of 2005-2011. The highest cases of asthma-related deaths occur in South Africa.

There have been two major asthma epidemics in modern history; one in the mid-1960s and the other in the mid-1980s. The epidemic in the mid-1960s appears to have been caused by high-dose isoprenaline inhalers as an asthma reliever medication. This treatment can have a negative effect on the heart, and asthma mortality subsided when this treatment stopped being used.

The epidemic in the mid-1980s was seemingly caused by the increased use of the inhaled medication fenoterol, which also has a negative effect on the heart.

Conclusion

This is just a brief summary of what asthma is like around the world; if you're interested in reading more, you can read through the detailed Global Asthma Report.1 As you can see, every part of the world experiences asthma, and globally people are affected by the same triggers. However, there might be differences in asthma education, treatment, government policy, medication affordability, and accessibility depending on where you live.

Where do you live? How is asthma viewed, treated, and discussed in your country?

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Asthma.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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