Salud Saturday: Asthma & How Latinos can Fight it


Guest post by Laura Tellado (@Laurita86)

When my parents were dating in the early 1980s, they once had a discussion about the possibility of having children. Both were prone to severe allergies, and Papi especially had chronic asthma.

“Can you imagine if we someday had a child?” they joked grimly. “I’d feel really sorry for him or her!”

Lo and behold, they married, and said child was born several years later. I was diagnosed with really bad allergies at a very young age, but I was also born with Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus, so it was often challenging for my parents to balance all my health issues at once. Still, my parents were incredibly proactive, and they took me to see an allergist early on. I remember the years of getting shots on a weekly basis. It seemed I was in the allergists’ office all the time, being stuck with a needle (or two).

But having the sniffles and an occasional sneeze didn’t faze me. What really became a burden to deal with was my asthma. It was evident from the beginning that I had become the victim of my genetics. Papi and I each puffing on our inhalers, and me getting daily treatments with my nebulizer, are among my earliest memories.

Just yesterday I learned that I’m also a victim of my heritage, as well. A study conducted by the UCLA/RAND Program on Latino Children reports, “Puerto Rican children have a higher prevalence of asthma than Mexican American or Cuban American children.” Awesome. Thanks for the heads-up!

What’s more, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Office of Minority Health, “Hispanic children are 60 percent more likely to have asthma, as compared to non-Hispanic whites.” Also, Puerto Rican Americans have over twice the asthma rate as compared to the overall Hispanic population.”

Everywhere we traveled by car (and we road-tripped a lot!) we had to haul my boxy, bulky nebulizer with us, and make sure we didn’t forget the inhaler, the Benadryl, and the EpiPen for (Dios libre!) emergencies.

And not only was I prone to asthma attacks; often I got full-blown allergy attacks that seemed to come out of nowhere. I remember visiting Puerto Rico when I was maybe 7 years old and getting a severe allergy attack with asthma shortly after arriving at my Abuela’s house. Seeing my Mami jam an EpiPen injection in my thigh has forever traumatized me, to say the least.

Around the time I started pre-school, we all learned about a new allergy of mine: I was having an allergic reaction every time they had a birthday party in class, and it was only a matter of time until latex balloons were singled out as the culprit. (My frequent visits to the hospital triggered an allergy to latex, as gloves and other medical equipment are often made from this rubber.)

When I heard Elianne Ramos would be moderating a panel discussion on Latino kids and asthma, I was thrilled. As Ramos wrote on the LATISM blog on Aug. 9, “Asthma is an issue of social justice. With 66 percent of Latinos in the United States living in areas that do not meet federal air quality standards, Latino children are 60 percent more at risk for asthma than white children. When these children grow into adults, they are three times as likely as whites to die from asthma.”

While I’m thankful I’ve outgrown my asthma, I recently began a new allergy vaccination regimen. I started it up again when, in spring 2010, I could barely leave the house because of the pollen explosion. I’m well aware that anything could trigger my asthma again, at any time.

I’m also conscious of the fact that I could very well pass it on to future generations. So, in the spirit of being proactive and vigilant, I’m sharing some tips that were discussed in yesterday’s chat and that could help you and your family when dealing with your child’s asthma:

-Maintain an open dialogue between you, your child’s doctor, and your child’s teachers. Make sure the teacher is well aware of your child’s asthma and share your action plan with them in case of an asthma emergency

-Know about your child’s asthma “triggers”—dust, mold, pollen, dogs, etc.

-Emphasize how crucial it is for an inhaler to be with your child at all times, and talk to your child about when and how to use it

-If you or your spouse have/has a history of asthma, know that heredity can play a big role in determining your child’s predisposition to asthma

Here are a few resources you might find useful in doing your research on asthma:

Mothers Clean Air Force, a community organization defending clean air for the sake of our children’s health has a national campaign to raise awareness about the incidence of asthma in the Latino Community

Respira provides medical services and asthma prevention and treatment education to Latino families in the state of New Jersey. Their website has lots of resources in Spanish

The Hispanic Federation has advocacy programs at both the community and the policy levels with respect to the vital issues of health, the environment and clean air, among other issues.

-The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute offers a list of helpful resources for parents and teachers of kids with asthma

The Central Valley Air Quality Coalition site is packed with studies, resources and bilingual fact sheets about asthma and how to avoid triggers

-The Latino Health Initiative Asthma Management Program site links to various bilingual brochures, fact sheets and statistics

-The National Alliance for Hispanic Health has great resources about asthma

-The Medline Plus site lists various organizations for allergies and asthma

With a little research and lots of open communication with health care professionals and educators, you can ensure your kids will breathe easy—and so will you!


Laura is a journalist/blogger from Puerto Rico dedicated to generate public awareness of Spina Bifida, a neural tube defect of the spinal cord that is the #1 cause of paralysis in children in America. Follow Laura on Twitter @Laurita86. Read more about her campaign at her blog:

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    Angela kane 4 years ago

    I have a child that has asthma and I just want to thank you for these great tips. It is very hard to deal and see my child go through asthma.

    Amy G 4 years ago

    My child also has asthma and I try to give him all the love and support so he doesn’t feel alone. These tips were very helpful btw. 

    visit site 1 year ago

    I just want to say I am just very new to blogs and actually enjoyed your web blog. Probably I’m planning to bookmark your blog . You absolutely come with amazing writings. Cheers for revealing your webpage.

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