Children all around the country are now settled into their new classes for the school year and have begun to tackle the challenges that school brings however, in this new school year and new fall season, the challenge of staying healthy is not to be overlooked by children or their parents.

Asthma continues to plague African-American children at much higher rates than their white counterparts, with 4.5 million African-American children suffering with asthma, according to a 2010 report from the Office of Minority Health of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

These children are 3.6 times more likely to visit the emergency room for asthma than Caucasian children, and health officials believe that preventative measures can be taken to avoid such a high rate of emergency room visits and asthma-related deaths.

Brooklyn-based physician Gary Jean-Baptiste, M.D., spoke to AmNews about why there may be such a disparity between African-American children and their counterparts and what parents can do to help their children with asthma.

“Parents need to educate themselves through reading and primary care doctors,” says Jean-Baptiste. “Ask a lot of questions.”

Jean-Baptiste also highlights that a lack of education, together with poverty, are major factors in the number of emergency room visits by African-American patients. The parents “really don’t know that they can have a primary doctor,” he says, making a point that one-on-one educational sessions are far less likely to happen in an emergency room visit than they are to happen with a primary care provider.

If a primary care doctor is not immediately accessible to a parent, many resources online can serve as guides. Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca shares on one of its asthma medication sites a list of asthma symptoms as a way to track a child’s triggers between doctor’s visits. The company also provides a checklist for parents and children to go through when speaking with a doctor.

Many uncontrollable factors, including changes of weather, can trigger a child’s asthma. A number of indoor factors, however, can be controlled by parents. “Allergies can trigger asthma,” says Jean-Baptiste, naming pet allergies, dusty carpets and mold as the top culprits.

While asthma is not a new leading illness among African-American children, it continues to disproportionately affect the children of the community. Jean-Baptiste advises parents to “be prepared” and “never run out of asthma medication,” reminding us all that it is the little things that can help save a child’s life.

For more information on symptom trackers and the asthma checklist, visit www.pulmicortflexhaler.com/pdf/symptom_tracker.pdf and www.pulmicortflexhaler.com/pdf/drvisit_checklist.pdf.