Riley Robinson of Plymouth is an avid swimmer. In fact, the 9-year-old goes to the Ridgedale YMCA three times a week. And she's able to do it despite having seasonal asthma.
"Well I feel fine with it," Riley said about having asthma. "I'm just like a regular person."
Riley is one of 90,000 Minnesota children who live with the chronic lung disease.
"We manage it together," said JoAnn Robinson, Riley's mother.
JoAnn says Riley was diagnosed when she was just a year old.
"Ever since then we have been doing our best to learn more about it and to help her cope with it," JoAnn said.
But coping can depend on where you live.
"We've seen a disparity of asthma hospitalization rates between children living in the Twin Cities metro area and those living in greater Minnesota," said Wendy Brunner, the Asthma Program epidemiologist with the Minnesota Department of Health.
State health officials say the hospitalization rate is 50 percent higher in the Twin Cities than the rest of the state. However, they're not entirely sure of the reason for the disparity.
"If there are differences in patterns in asthma care between the Twin Cities and greater Minnesota that could be contributing," Brunner said. "But it could also be due to differences in exposure to triggers."
The Minnesota Department of Health says that asthma hospitalization rates peak in the fall, so it encourages children to visit a healthcare provider before going back to school to ensure they have the proper medications.
Common triggers of asthma attacks – or episodes – include pollen, dust mites, mold, air pollution and secondhand smoke. One of the health department's goals is to minimize triggers inside the homes of people who have asthma.
"So for example, we can go into the home and provide air cleaners and mattress covers depending on the child's trigger," Brunner said.
Riley and her mom say they try their best to keep the house as clean as possible.
"A lot of vacuuming to keep the dust mites and allergens clear," JoAnn said.
Every little bit helps to ensure that Riley doesn't wind up in the hospital.
"She hasn't been hospitalized since she was a much younger child," JoAnn added.
In the meantime, Riley has a message for other kids out there who also live with asthma.
"Don't get mad at yourself just because you have asthma," Riley said. "You're practically the same person as everybody else."
July 31, 2012