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Children From D.C.'s Low-Income Areas Face More Risk From Asthma

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Parents often don't tell school nurses that they have run out of asthma medication.
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Parents often don't tell school nurses that they have run out of asthma medication.

Washington, D.C., has one of the most severe childhood asthma problems in the country, with more than one in five children under 18 having the condition. Poorly-treated asthma means more students missing school, more caregivers missing work and more emergency room visits.

Children in D.C.’s poorest areas were 10 times more likely to visit the emergency room because of untreated asthma compared to children in wealthier parts of the city. That’s according to a recent report by several advocacy groups.

Some reasons asthma is managed poorly are tied to poverty. For example, low income children are more likely to live in apartments with carpet mold that can trigger asthma, parents often can't take time off for doctor’s appointments and caregivers sometimes don't understand medicine instructions.

Several school nurses say parents don't tell them that their child has asthma or that they've run out of medication. Just 30 percent of health information forms that parents are supposed to compete at the beginning of each school year are turned into D.C. schools. Even those that are turned in may be incomplete.

Recommendations include more having more general education about asthma, improving communication between parents and school staff and allowing school nurses better access to student health information.

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