Thursday, June 21, 2018 | Updated at 12:07 PM ET


SALUD: Respiratory Health & the U.S. Latino Community

First Posted: Oct 30, 2015 03:34 PM EDT

Within the U.S. Latino community, respiratory health is an important topic, particularly because environmental pollutants and work conditions put Latinos at heightened risk of developing respiratory conditions and diseases.

Lower respiratory tract infections are the leading cause of sickness and mortality in children and adults worldwide, among all infectious diseases. Born in the lungs, trachea (wind pipe), the bronchioles and bronchial tubes, some of the insidious inflammatory infections include pneumonia, lung abscess, acute bronchitis and the H5N1 strand of influenza. These can lead to discomfort, difficulty breathing, fatigue, respiratory arrest, respiratory failure and congestive heart failure.

Upper respiratory tract infections, which are far less severe, include the common cold, pharyngitis and laryngitis. While upper respiratory tract infections are nearly benign compared to lower respiratory infections, upper respiratory infections are one the most common reasons for doctor visits, absenteeism from school or work, and they can manifest at any time, all though they're most common during the fall and winter. The infections are caused by viruses, and they're self-limited.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Office of Minority Health and Health Equity, Chronic lower respiratory diseases are the seventh leading cause of death for Hispanics, and the third leading cause of death for non-Hispanic whites. Mal aire ("bad air"), exposure to pollutants in the home and the work place, impairment of lung function, neurobehavioral abnormalities and contact with airborne viruses (adenoviruses and rhinoviruses) are known to contribute to the development of acute respiratory infections or respiratory conditions. Air pollutants can have lasting effects on a child's health causing the development of asthma and other respiratory conditions.

According to research published by the American Journal of Public health, foreign-born Latinos are disproportionately affected by asthma and other breathing problem unless they live in enclave-like settings. Hispanic farm workers and factory workers face additional respiratory hazards. For these workers, there's a prevalence of respiratory symptoms, such as cough. Effective and low-cost dust masks could be used to prevent adverse respiratory effects, and yet many owners and managers fail to offer workers proper safety gear or education about their health.  

Limón (lemon), Llantén (plantain or plantago), Canela (cassia cinnamon) are traditional Mexican medicinal herbs that frequently used to treat respiratory infections. However, most causes of acute respiratory infection aren't treatable; therefore prevention and practicing good hygiene is the best way to ensure health. Washing hands, sneezing into the fold of one's shirt or into a tissue, and keeping hands far from the face, eyes and mouth is the best way to prevent introducing germs to the body. Also, consume plenty of vitamins, such as vitamin C, and avoid smoking.

Since the 1982, the American Association for Respiratory Care and respiratory professionals celebrated Respiratory Care Week during the fall. The week honors respiratory care professionals in every branch of respiratory care, including pulmonary rehabilitation, home care, education, emergency care, neonatal-pediatrics, respiratory therapist and any other frontline health care professionals helping patients to breathe easier.  

The week also raises awareness around improving lung health worldwide. It also encourages patients and their families to battle lung diseases, inspires the public to enter the respiratory care profession, and educates those already in the field, helping them to maximize professional and personal skills with renewed resources.

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