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Latino Kids and Asthma

Asthma has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. When I had trouble breathing as a child, my mother would give me a thick cough syrup that contained a large dose of caffeine to help me breathe. It didn’t help my asthma much, but it did make me talk nonstop. Asthma runs in my family and there are too many relatives with it to name—including one of my children.

In fact, asthma affects Black and Hispanic children in higher numbers than the general population. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 8 percent of Hispanic children have asthma. Within the Hispanic community, children of Puerto Rican descent have the highest rates of asthma with 20 percent of children affected by the respiratory condition compared to Mexican-Americans at 7 percent. And most shocking is that Hispanic children are nearly twice as likely to be hospitalized for asthma than Caucasians.

Pollution, second-hand smoke, and indoor allergies can cause asthma, a chronic respiratory disease. May is Asthma Awareness month and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute is giving parents information to help them control their child’s asthma.

Get your child to a doctor if he or she his having trouble breathing

A doctor can determine if your child needs medication and find the most effective one to help reduce inflammation in the airways. Many children with asthma take a daily dose of corticosteroid via an inhaler. This requires follow up visits to the doctor and medication adjustments to find the right treatment for your child. Asthma attacks are scary, but a doctor can create a written asthma action plan with instructions on how to handle symptoms of an attack.

Try to identify asthma triggers

After all these years, I have a pretty good idea what will trigger asthma symptoms for my son and me. I didn’t realize it right away, and it took several trips to the doctor to determine what we were allergic to and how I could reduce our exposure. One of the triggers for us was dust mites, a common allergen. Dust mites are microscopic bugs that live on furniture, bedding, curtains, and rugs. By switching to allergen-free bedding, vacuuming more often, and washing the curtains regularly, we reduced out symptoms significantly. Other common triggers can include:

• Pet dander

• Cockroaches

• Tobacco smoke

• Nitrogen dioxide from gas ovens

• Pollen

• Air pollution from car emissions, power plants, dust and smoke

Watch the local weather during the summer for air quality reports

The EPA recommends watching the local weather report to find the Air Quality Index. When there is too much pollution in the air state agencies will declare an Ozone Action Day warning people with asthma to limit outdoor activity.

Sadly, asthma is a way of life for many people and the numbers are growing. Asthma rates increased a stunning 75 percent from 1980 to 1994 and are currently at their highest levels ever.

For more information about asthma, visit the Environmental Protection Agency's asthma resource page and the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.

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