Asthma affects approximately 25 million people (5.1 million who are children under age 18 years) in the US.[1]

In Hawai’i, approximately 104,400 (9%) adults and 30,000 (10%) children currently have asthma.[2]

According to an analysis of 2018 BRFSS data, 15% of Native Hawaiian adults reported having current asthma, compared to the state average of 9%.[2]

Signs & Symptoms

Asthma is a chronic disease that affects the lungs. It occurs when the airways narrow, making it difficult to breathe.

Symptoms may include:

  • Chest tightness
  • Coughing (especially at night or early morning)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing (which is a whistling sound when you breathe out)

Symptoms often follow a pattern:

  • They come and go over time or within the same day
  • They start or get worse with viral infections, such as a cold
  • They are worse at night or in the morning
  • They are triggered (learn more about triggers below)

Although asthma cannot be cured, symptoms CAN be controlled with proper clinical treatment, appropriate use of medication, self-management education, and limited exposure to environmental triggers.

Everyone with asthma should have an Asthma Action Plan a simple worksheet with the steps to take to keep your asthma from getting worse and when to take medicine. It’s easy to complete and follow. Action plans for keiki can also be shared with schools and other caregivers so they know what to do when a flare-up occurs.

Learn how managing asthma goes hand in hand with an action plan, plus more tips for parents & caregivers  and teachers & coaches


Asthma symptoms and asthma attacks are often caused by allergens or irritants, known as “triggers.” That’s why it’s important to learn what triggers an asthma attack and avoid those triggers whenever possible.[3]

Cockroaches, dust mites, and secondhand smoke are triggers for many people with asthma in Hawai’i. Click the images below to learn more.

Other common asthma triggers include:[3][4]

Allergies (allergens)

  • Molds
  • Pet dander
  • Pollen
  • Rodents


  • Chalk dust
  • Chemicals
  • Perfume
  • Smoke from burning wood or grass
  • VOG

Respiratory Infections & Other Health Conditions

  • Respiratory infections, including:

    • Colds
    • Flu
    • Pneumonia
    • COVID-19
  • Health conditions, such as:

    • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
    • Acid reflux

Talk to your doctor about keeping up-to-date on vaccinations, including flu, pneumococcal, and COVID-19.


  • Cold air
  • Dry air
  • Bad weather, like thunderstorms or high humidity

Exercise & Some Medicines

  • Exercise and physically demanding tasks
  • NSAIDs (Aspirin), beta-blockers, and other medicines

Talk to your doctor about asthma management and medicine so you can participate in any sport or activity.

Strong Emotions

  • Anger
  • Crying
  • Excitement
  • Fear
  • Laughter
  • Yelling

Strong emotions may cause fast breathing or hyperventilation.




[1] CDC National Asthma Data (Prevalence in 2019).
[2] Hawaii State Department of Health, Hawaii Health Data Warehouse. Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. (2018).
[3] CDC. (2020, August 21). Common Asthma Triggers.
[4] AAFA. (n.d.). What Causes or Triggers Asthma?