Residents of the Imperial Valley, a rural, agricultural border region in California, have raised concerns over high rates of pediatric asthma symptoms. There is an urgent need to understand the influences and predictors of children's respiratory health in Imperial Valley. We assessed the impacts of sociodemographic, lifestyle, and household factors on children's respiratory health and asthma prevalence by administering a survey to parents of elementary school children (n = 357) in northern Imperial Valley. We observed an overall asthma prevalence of 22.4% and respiratory symptoms and allergies were widely reported, including wheezing (35.3%), allergies (36.1%), bronchitic symptoms (28.6%), and dry cough (33.3%). Asthmatics were significantly more likely to report respiratory symptoms, but high rates of wheezing, allergies, and dry cough were observed among nonasthmatics, suggesting the possibility for underdiagnosis of respiratory impairment in our school-age population. Having an asthmatic mother and exposure to environmental tobacco smoke were also associated with greater odds of asthma. Our findings provide evidence to support community concerns about children's respiratory health, while also suggesting that household and demographic characteristics have limited explanatory power for assessing asthma in this population. This work provides critical baseline data with which to evaluate local environmental factors and their influence on asthma and respiratory symptoms.
Keywords: Imperial County, California; asthma; children’s respiratory health; environment; rural areas.