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Significant Asthma Differences Found Among
Mexican American Children

Mexican American children born in the United States have an increased risk of asthma compared to children born in Mexico, according to a study featured in the July 2005 Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology (JACI). The JACI is the peer-reviewed, scientific journal of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI).

Kamal Eldeirawi, RN, MS, and colleagues from the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Southern California analyzed data on 4,121 Mexican American children who were participants in the third National Health & Nutrition Examination Survey.

The researchers compared the prevalence of asthma and wheezing in the past year among children born in the United States to those born in Mexico. They sought to identify risk factors in the environment that may change with migration to the United States and could influence the risk of asthma and wheezing.

Results of the Asthma Study
Researchers discovered significant differences in the prevalence of asthma and wheezing among Mexican American children. Their findings showed:

• Children born in the United States were significantly more likely to report asthma diagnosis and wheezing than those born in Mexico.
• Children born in the United States were more likely to have a history of ear infection, to report having a regular place for health care, and to have a parental history of asthma or hay fever than children born in Mexico.
• Maternal smoking during pregnancy was more common among children born in the United States, while breastfeeding was more common among children born in Mexico.

Differences In Environment Affect Asthma
These findings indicate the possibility that something in the environment is dramatically different between the two countries. Possible explanations include variations in diagnostic practices or access to health care in Mexico as opposed to the United States.

Also, children born in the United States may be more likely to have a regular place for healthcare, and therefore more likely to be diagnosed with asthma. However, the study found that the increased asthma risk in U.S. born children continued to persist even after taking this into account.

Researchers believe another reason may be due to social and cultural factors. Mexican immigrants may be hesitant to report illness or personal information because of certain cultural beliefs. Their views on health care and illness may be different from people born in the United States and therefore are more accustomed to U.S. culture.

This study was the first in the United States to document the differences in the prevalence of asthma and respiratory symptoms among Mexican American children. Researchers believe further research is needed to identify factors behind the differences, which could lead to a better understanding of asthma and its epidemiology and prevention.
Source: AAAAI

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