Researchers have found that, compared to non-Latino white children with asthma, Latino children tended to think they were experiencing asthma symptoms, such as shortness of breath, when tests actually revealed normal lung function. The study, published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, looked at the ethnic disparities in pediatric asthma.

Inaccurate symptom perception was associated with more asthma-related emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and unscheduled clinic visits, according to the researchers. Perception of lung function and asthma symptoms is an important component in the home management of asthma.

“There are a couple of possible explanations for these cultural differences in perceptual ability. For example, Latino children often have limited access to asthma health care, so families might expect to be seen by a physician only if the child is experiencing severe asthma symptoms. This might cause anxious parents, and kids, to inadvertently magnify symptoms in order to receive the care they believe is needed," said Gregory K. Fritz, MD, the study’s lead author and academic director of Bradley Hospital and director of the Bradley Hasbro Children’s Research Center (BHCRC) in East Providence, RI.

"On the other hand, since greater symptom magnification leads to higher emergency department use, unscheduled office visits and hospitalizations, this tendency toward magnification could be viewed as a contributor to asthma disparities rather than a result," added Fritz.

Source: Bradley Hospital