Asthma epidemic hits Latinos kids

Francisco Ramos, 13, of Firebaugh, was born with a collapsed lung, and is destined to be a chronic asthmatic.

He is one of the many Latino children in the San Joaquín Valley who are impacted by the region’s asthma epidemic, my co-worker Daniel Cásarez writes in this week’s edition of Vida en el Valle. His story was produced as a project for The California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships.

In Fresno County, about 19.2 percent of children ages 1 to 17 have been diagnosed with asthma, according to KidsData.org. Statewide, about 14.2 percent of kids have been diagnosed with asthma.

Even with the huge number of asthmatic children in the region, Latino parents – especially those living in rural communities - lack information about the condition, Cásarez reports. He spoke with Drs. Óscar and Marcia Sablán, who have operated the Sablán Medical Clinic in Firebaugh for more than 25 years.

He writes:

Too often, parents rely on humidifiers and Primatene mist and don’t realize it is just a short-term fix. A doctor’s examination is necessary.

“Basically people would not treat asthma; just opt for an ER visit,” said Marcia Sablán.

“They would put a lot of Vicks (vapor rub) on their chest. For someone who has not seen a physician, those are the things they do. They don’t realize they could feel better, and actually have a lot more energy when their asthma is controlled,” adds Óscar Sablán.

“If you’re not aggressive in treating the asthma, then the asthma persists into adulthood, and in a more malignant form.”

Not facing the exacerbations of asthma, another term for asthma attack, could lead to more frequent attacks, if early treatment is not sought.

“If you have a lot of attacks, you are at risk to have another one, but if you can get it under control for an extended period of time, then you have less of a chance of recurrence,” said Óscar Sablán.

To learn more about asthma, check out ‘Latinos lack asthma info’ by Vida en el Valle reporter Daniel Cásarez. Photos, both of Francisco Ramos, also by Cásarez.

This week in the Valley: Sick, sick air

Not only is it hot, hot, hot this week, the air quality is also really, really, really unhealthy.

What does that mean?

For Fresno resident María Arevalo, a member of the community group Latinos United for Clean Air, it means trouble for her children – two out of four whom have asthma.

“The air quality is really bad,” she told me. “They are not doing their regular activities this week.”

The unhealthy levels of ozone – caused by both the summer-like hot days, and the Sheep Fire in Kings Canyon National Park and Sequoia National Forest – is bad news for families across the San Joaquín Valley, and especially those people with asthma. According to the California Health Interview Study (CHIS,) 16.5 percent of people in the San Joaquín Valley have been diagnosed with asthma.

Poor air quality can have myriad impacts on community healthy, said Elizabeth Jonasson, campaign and outreach associate for the Coalition for Clean Air.

  • That bad air quality means children with asthma, and adults with a history of heart attacks, are at risk of having an attack, she said.
  • It means increased hospital visits, she said. (According to a 2005 CHIS survey, 19.9 percent of Valley asthmatics visited the emergency room or urgent care facility for asthma within the past 12 months.)
  • And it means a loss of productivity for adults who suffer from asthma, chronic bronchitis, or other lung diseases, or for adults who must take care of children with these conditions. (According to a 2005 CHIS survey, 8.8 percent of Valley adults have missed 1-10 days of work due to asthma in the past 12 months.)

To keep up with the Valley’s daily air quality forecast, call the SMOG-INFO line at 1-800-766-4463. Click here to get the daily air quality forecast.

To learn about the small changes you can make to help improve air quality in the Valley, watch this video: