A dramatic increase in asthma rates could have devastating affects on Latino children, the group least likely to get treatment for respiratory conditions, reports Fox News Latino.

Between 2001 and 2009, rates of asthma in the U.S. general population grew by 4.3 million, with one in 12 Americans living with an asthma diagnosis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Latinos, especially Puerto Ricans, bear the brunt of this burden: 1 in 5 Puerto Rican children have asthma, and moreover, studies show that Latinos with asthma are less likely to have an asthma management plan or asthma medication.

“A lot of Hispanics still think [asthma] is not something real,” said Jane Delgado, PhD, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Hispanic Health.

Latinos everywhere should think twice before taking a breath. Asthma, a disease that constricts the airways in the lungs, makes people more susceptible to allergens like tobacco, smog and air pollutants. And according to the Alliance, 70 percent of Latinos live in areas that are below federal air quality standards, and 15 percent of Latinos live within 10 miles of coal-fired power plants.

“We have to help families with the resources they need to get help,” Delgado said. “They need a management plan and to know how to prevent having an episode.”

If you think you may be suffering from asthma (symptoms include shortness of breath, tightening in the chest or pain, bouts of intense coughing or wheezing), you should be tested and started on medications. To learn more, log on to hispanichealth.org.