According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the adult U.S. Latino population has lower rates of asthma than the general population (7.3 percent compared to 8.4 percent), but Latino children have higher than average rates for asthma, and those rates are escalating.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute calls asthma a chronic lung disease that's marked with inflammation that narrows airways, causing recurring periods of wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing and chest tightness — and it affects 25 million people in the United States; 7 million of those affected are children.

Latino children living in western states are fortunate; they experience asthma at the same rate as other children in the region. But, just a few hundred miles to the east, particularly within younger Puerto Rican populations in the eastern states, asthma rates are more than double the national average. Nationwide, 9.6 percent of Latino children are afflicted with asthma, but the rate among children in the Puerto Rican subgroup exceeds 20 percent.

Environmental factors like airborne allergens and genetics are both contributors to the disease.Toxic chemicals hidden in pollution deserve a great deal of blame for the disparity; 39 percent of Hispanics live within 30 miles of a power plant, and 1 in every 2 Hispanics lives in a county where air pollution is considered to be within "unhealthy levels." Research of the disease among Latino and other non-whitepopulations has been lackluster thus far. There are very few studies that map the incidence rate among Latinos; this is the case even though the American Academy of Pediatrics ranks study of the illness as a top priority. 

Western states' lower asthma rates have been attributed to drier climates; arid regions have drawn countless individuals who wish to alleviate or relieve some conditions affiliated with asthma. Denver has one of the top respiratory hospitals in the nation, The National Jewish Hospital, which draws people from around the world. While NJH still heavily subsidizes those unable to pay for care, being able to relocate or travel to access services available in Denver isn't possible for most low-income Latinos.

Early detection is the most important step for treating asthma; parents and early childhood educators should be vigilant and familiar with asthmatic symptoms. To prevent or diminish the effects of asthma, Latino parents should never smoke around children. They should also check their homes for lead-based paint, include fruit and vegetables in a healthy diet, create opportunities for daily exercise, contribute to information health studies whenever possible, seek out health insurance and maintain a regular schedule for health checkups, and support systems of early childhood education for early detection.

Genetic factors may make it impossible to completely eliminate asthma from the lives of all Latino children, but taking personal responsibility as a member of the community can help reverse the growing asthma rates.