Do You Live in One of the Sneeziest, Wheeziest Cities?

For years I watched my youngest sister, Emily, struggle to keep up in cheerleading when she was suffering from asthma. She often had take a break and sit out to catch her breath. Last year she had such a terrible coughing fit that her coach called our parents and recommended that Emily stop cheerleading altogether. Although disappointed, my parents could hardly blame the scared cheer coach and decided to take Emily off the team until she was able to figure out a better solution with a doctor.

My sister is hardly alone when it comes to her fight with asthma. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), 10 percent of children and 8 percent of adults in America are diagnosed with asthma. This month is National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month, and with this season being the peak for allergies, it's the perfect time to increase awareness.

Last week, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released its annual "Sneezing and Wheezing" report, which documents the top 50 cities in America that are asthma capitals and also in ragweed-positive and eight-hour ozone exceedance-positive areas; Richmond, Virginia, ranked number one. Given the population in these areas, this means that one out of every three Americans are living in a top 50 "Sneeziest and Wheeziest" city.

"Americans deserve to breathe clean air, but today millions of us are sneezing and wheezing from allergies and asthma worsened by climate change-fueled ragweed pollen and ozone smog pollution," said Juan Declet-Barreto, the lead author of the NRDC report.

This new report shows a definite correlation between American's worsening allergies and increased asthma diagnosis. Climate is certainly not a problem that can be fixed overnight or even controlled by an antibiotic, but it is something to be aware of. This summer, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is on track to finalize the Clean Power Plan. This plan will set the first-ever limits for carbon pollution from power plants on a national level. This could lead to an overwhelming impact on clean air, as power plans are currently the largest source of carbon pollution within the United States. The Clean Power Plan will hopefully be a giant step forward in influencing climate change and reducing emissions that create ground-level ozone.

Alexandra Pastore is an editorial intern at Parents magazine.

Asthma is a chronic disease that can be more serious for children. Learn about the common symptoms, what to expect if your child has asthma, and when you should call your doctor.

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