Breathing Not So Easy for Some Women

Asthma hospitalizations were more common in women than in men

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Asthma can affect anyone, but asthma attacks may have very different outcomes for men and women.

A new study found that women were much more likely than men to be hospitalized for an asthma attack.

This study found that although women were more likely than men to see asthma specialists and have long-term asthma treatment plans, men had significantly lower rates of hospitalization.

"Although the authors present some potential explanations for this disparity, we by no means have the answer," said John Oppenheimer, MD, a fellow of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, in an interview with dailyRx News. "One thing is for sure, however: more research is needed to explain this finding. In the meantime clinicians need to be aware that women are at greater risk of hospitalization for their asthma."

Several factors, such as sex hormones and perceptions of how clear the airways are, were possible reasons behind these rates, noted the authors of this study.

“Those who see an allergist and use controller medications find themselves in the [emergency department] much less often and experience fewer hospitalizations related to their asthma,” said James Sublett, MD, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, in a press statement.

According to the authors of this study, there are around 1.8 million ER visits and 440,000 hospitalizations due to asthma attacks each year in the US.

This study was led by Rose M. Chasm, MD, of the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. Dr. Chasm and team studied 2,000 adults with acute asthma who required emergency treatment for the condition.

Women were found less likely than men to have severe or very severe asthma. However, only 12 percent of the men in this study were hospitalized following their ER visits. For women, that figure was 20 percent.

Dr. Chasm and team said women may experience asthma symptoms differently and called for “effective, individualized asthma management strategies.”

Dr. Sublett emphasized the importance of visiting an allergist and controlling symptoms.

“Many people aren’t aware that allergists are asthma specialists and are among the best-equipped experts to help keep asthma under control,” Dr. Sublett said.

This study was published May 5 in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

A grant from Novartis to Massachusetts General Hospital funded this research. Study author Dr. Carlos A. Camargo had financial ties to GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis and Teva.

Review Date: 
May 4, 2015
Last Updated:
May 11, 2015