09/04/2011 10:02 am ET Updated Nov 04, 2011

Higher Rates Of Childhood Asthma In Latino Populations: What To Do As A Parent

Latino children are 60% more at risk for asthma than white non-Latino kids. Because I am Latina, I've become even more interested in the topic and what I can do to create awareness.

Even though my 5-year-old daughter was diagnosed with asthma two years ago and I've done my share of research on the topic, I don't consider myself an expert. Thanks to my involvement with the Moms Clean Air Force - a group of moms fighting for clean air, I've learned a lot about how this disease affects Latino children in particular.

We've been lucky that my daughter has never had a full-blown asthma attack and the majority of her problems now stem from colds that usually have to be treated a bit more aggressively so they don't become a more serious ailment.

But, nothing could have prepared me to hear Lydia Rojas' talk during the Moms Clean Air Force's Blog Talk Radio Show about the asthma epidemic and Latino kids. Four and a half years ago, Rojas' daughter, Steph, died of an asthma attack two months before she would've turned 16 years old.

I listened in horror as Rojas retold the heartbreaking story about how her daughter died and how she still doesn't know how it happened. No parent should have to tell such a story. According to Rojas, her daughter's asthma was fairly under control. A specialist regularly saw her, and Rojas made sure her daughter was taking her medication accordingly.

The most harrowing part of the story for me is that by the time Rojas made it to the hospital, her daughter had already passed away.

If you have a child with asthma, I beg you to make it a point to listen to the show so you can be moved to act like I was. If you don't have a child with asthma, you should still listen to the program because it offers invaluable information about the epidemic that is affecting our niños, in many instances because of the bad air quality they are breathing.

After my daughter was diagnosed with asthma, I made sure I carried her inhaler around with us everywhere we went. In addition, I informed the preschool she attended of her condition and gave them an inhaler to keep in their office. I was reassured to hear that both the director and the assistant director were trained to deal with an asthma attack. Moreover, my daughter's preschool teacher's child had asthma, so she was completely aware of the signs.

Because, my daughter has been blessed, and never had an asthma attack, I eventually I stopped carrying the inhaler. When she started Kindergarten three weeks ago, I didn't even bother to find out what procedures were in the event of an attack, nor did I give them an inhaler in case my daughter had an attack. Stupidly, I thought her asthma was obviously under control and if she'd never had an asthma attack, then what was the point of the inhaler.

Listening to Rojas' heartbreaking story made me realize that I should be more cautious. On Monday, I marched into the school with my daughter's inhaler and found out what they do in case of an attack.

Every day I pray she never ever has one. But at least, now I am more aware that I cannot let my guard down when it comes to this debilitating disease.

I'm more committed than ever to do all that's in my power to fight for clean air and to encourage other parents to stay informed about their child's condition.

Read more about how asthma affects Latino Kids.