Air to Breathe: Helping Latino Families Fight Asthma


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Did you know Latino kids are twice as likely to die from asthma than their peers?

More than 1 in 10 U.S. Latino kids have been told they have asthma. These kids struggle with this incurable lung disease that causes recurring periods of wheezing, chest tightness, coughing, shortness of breath, and can result in missed days of school or emotional and physical stress.

Inhalers are often inappropriately prescribed to children assumed to have asthma without proper diagnostic testing (via Clinical Advisor)

Why is this?

Poverty plays a big role, but it’s more than that, said Genny Carrillo of Texas A&M, who studies the disease.

“Possibly due to more limited access to health insurance and health care providers and higher presence of environmental triggers such as pollution, dust and mold,” Carrillo said.

There is good news.

A person with asthma can live and sleep without interruptions with proper treatment—and many community and health leaders are stepping up to help control the condition.

Researchers Working to Understand Asthma

Much research has focused on trying to find the causes of asthma.

Possible factors include:

  • Respiratory infection
  • Cold Air
  • Air pollutants
  • Strong emotions and stress
  • Being a smoker
  • Heritage

Carrillo of Texas A&M is a researcher trying to tackle asthma among Latinos.

The conditions affects the way children and their families live, as Latino kids are 70% more likely to be admitted to the hospital due to asthma attacks.

“The disease affects children’s physical and mental health by limiting physical activity and leading to higher rates of obesity and through stress-related emotional symptoms,” Carrillo said.

Carrillo’s latest study surveyed parents with asthmatic kids in Hidalgo County, Texas.

She found these families had less than $15,000 a year in income. They lacked the education and healthcare needed to help their children with this disease.

Asthma is such a big problem among Latinos because they lack access to healthcare. About 15.1% of U.S. Latinos lack health insurance, compared to 6.6% of whites, according to data in a Salud America! research review.

Latinos also have overwhelming stress, like fear of deportation, which can prevent them from seeking medical care for asthma and other conditions.

And that’s not to mention air pollution.

About 40% of the U.S. population live in areas that do nor comply with national ambient air quality standards. Latino kids who live in areas with higher levels of air pollution have a heightened risk of developing type 2 diabetes, for example, according to a recent study.

“(Latinos) are extremely vulnerable to hazard and harm from this widening environmental threat,” said Adrianna Quintero, a co-author of the report and director of partner engagement at NRDC. “In so many ways—from where they live and work to dire challenges they face in gaining access to health care—Latinos are at Ground Zero for climate impacts.”

Asthma 411

Parents can get a lot of help managing their children’s asthma.

Health Central has 10 tips for raising a child who has asthma. Everyday Health shares eight tips for parents. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America also has lot of educational resources and support groups.

A school nurse talks about Asthma 411 with UNTHSC’s Leslie Allsopp (Paul Moseley via Star-Telegram)

But communities and schools can get involved, too.

In Fort Worth, Texas, the Asthma 411 program will be implemented to help students with respiratory problems.

The University of North Texas Health Science Center and Fort Worth schools have come to an agreement to implement Asthma 411 across campuses. Cook Children’s has offered to pay for equipment.

School campuses will get nebulizers, tubing, face-masks and albuterol, according to the Fort Worth Star Telegram.

“Every school — private, public — if they have a nurse, we want nebulizers and medicine in the school,” Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley told the Star Telegram.

Can your community or school make this change, too?!

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