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U.S.-Born Mexican-American Kids at Higher Asthma Risk

Those born in Mexico displayed fewer symptoms, and experts wonder why

FRIDAY, July 8, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Mexican-American children born in the United States are at increased risk of asthma compared to children born in Mexico but now living in America, a new study finds.

Researchers analyzed data on more than 4,100 Mexican-American children and compared the prevalence of asthma and wheezing during the previous year among those who were born in the United States and those born south of the border.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois in Chicago and the University of Southern California, found that U.S.-born children were much more likely to report wheezing and a diagnosis of asthma than those born in Mexico. Children born in the U.S. were also more likely to have a history of ear infection, a parental history of asthma or hay fever, and to report regularly attending a specific health-care facility compared to children born in Mexico.

Breastfeeding was more common among children born in Mexico, the researchers added, while maternal smoking during pregnancy was more likely among children born in the United States.

The findings suggest that something in the environment is dramatically different between Mexico and the United States, according to the researchers. Variations in diagnostic practices or access to health care are among other possible explanations, they said.

The team also noted that since children in the United States are more likely to visit a specific facility to obtain their health care, they may also be more likely to be diagnosed with asthma. However, even taking that factor into account, U.S.-born children still faced a greater risk of asthma than their Mexican-born peers.

Social and cultural factors may be another explanation. Certain cultural beliefs may make Mexican immigrants more reluctant to report illness or personal information, the researchers said. They said more research is needed to identify factors influencing differences in asthma risk between the two groups.

The findings appear in the July issue of the Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology.

More information

The American Lung Association has more about childhood asthma.

SOURCE: American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, news release, July 8, 2005
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