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By Paul Simao, Thu Aug 11, 2:36 PM ET
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.
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