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Breathing Difficult for Thousands of Arkansans

Children of color and from low-economic households have higher rates of asthma and more severe symptoms. (CDC)
Children of color and from low-economic households have higher rates of asthma and more severe symptoms. (CDC)
May 19, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – May is Asthma Awareness Month and, according to the American Lung Association, nearly 26 million people in the U.S. suffer from the condition, and more than 7 million are children.

A study by the University of Arkansas found 13 percent of adults in Arkansas have asthma, and the state is currently not funded under the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's Asthma Control Program.

Charles Gray, a physician assistant with Peak Vista Community Health Centers, says exposure to ground-level ozone – or smog – can be particularly harmful for people with asthma.

"They go outside,” he states. “They can have several symptoms such as shortness of breath.

“They can't breathe, they can't catch their breath. They have inflammation, and can actually have asthma attacks where they just feel that they're breathing through a straw."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people can prevent episodes by avoiding exposure to other triggers such as tobacco smoke, mold and people with colds and flu.

The CDC found almost half of all people in the U.S. with asthma have at least one attack a year, and more children experience attacks than adults.

Inhalers and other prescribed medicines for asthma can also prevent episodes. Gray says the biggest challenges facing many of the patients he sees are socio-economic – families can't afford to pay for health insurance or fill prescriptions.

"Children who aren't adequately treated, with asthma, it limits what they can do in their daily lives,” he states. “They can miss school. It also will prevent them from going out and trying out for different sports and activities."

A study by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that children of color and from low-income families have higher rates of asthma and more severe symptoms.

They also experience more challenges managing the condition and are at higher risk for associated academic and behavior problems.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - AR