Children in this country suffer from asthma more than any other chronic illness, and new research finds African-American children with the condition have a greater risk than others of experiencing severe symptoms that escalate into an emergency.

Previous research has shown that in comparison with white and Hispanic children, African-Americans have a higher rate of asthma, are hospitalized more, and face more disability due to the condition. Because of this, “we suspected they might also exhibit relatively more severe asthma symptoms at the time of hospitalization,” said Yu Bai, a doctoral candidate at Pennsylvania State University.

Bai and his colleagues analyzed the records of 7,726 white, African-American, and Hispanic children up to age 19 who were admitted to Pennsylvania hospitals in 2001 for asthma symptoms. The researchers then examined how the physician reported the severity of the children’s condition and ranked them either as “emergency” or “non-emergency” admissions.

Ninety percent of the African-American children had an emergency asthma condition compared with 60% of white and 64% of Hispanic children. In all, African-American children were more than twice as likely to have severe asthma symptoms as whites.

The study appears in the February issue of the Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved.