In 2009, 10.1 million children and youth in the United States had been diagnosed with asthma at some point in their life.

Asthma is the third-ranking cause of hospitalization among those younger than 15 years of age and one the leading causes of school absenteeism. As discussed in an earlier blog post, the current number and rate of Kentucky children experiencing inpatient hospitalizations due to asthma are lower than a decade ago.

Source: American Lung Association.

We know that a child’s environment can negatively affect their asthma and trigger an attack, whether the environment is their home, school, or the outdoors. Secondhand smoke, chemicals in the home and school, and outdoor air pollution can all worsen lung diseases like asthma. There are different types of air pollution – one type is year-round particle pollution where unhealthy levels of microscopic bits of solids or aerosols are in the air throughout the year. On the top 25 list of worst areas in the nation for year-round particle pollution, Kentucky occupies two slots, with Metro Louisville as the 9th most polluted city, and Ashland, KY coming in at 20th.

Extreme temperatures can also trigger asthma symptoms. With the record heat we’ve experienced this summer, it should come as no surprise that there have been numerous days declared unhealthy for groups sensitive to poor air quality, such as children with asthma. Luckily, it is easy to stay informed on air quality so you can take precautions by familiarizing yourself with the Air Quality Index and checking the AQI for your area every day.

There are simple things we can all do to make our air healthier and reduce the risks of asthma attacks for the children in our communities. One action I have recently committed to is turning off my car’s engine if I know it’ll be idling for more than 10 seconds.  Vehicle emissions contribute to year-round particle pollution and smog, so whether you’re at a school drop off zone or a drive-thru window I encourage you to go idle-free too.

For the most up-to-date data on child asthma, like the number of asthma hospitalizations for children in Kentucky, visit the KIDS COUNT Data Center.

Kentucky Youth Advocates thanks the KIDS COUNT Data Sponsor Louisville Biodiesel Cooperative for their support of this KIDS COUNT indicator.