Young Children's TV Habits Could Increase Risk of Asthma


Childhood asthma is a scary healthy issue, for both child and parents alike. While proper diagnosis and treatment can help keep the condition from spiralling out of control, frequent asthma-related trips to the emergency room are a fact of life for many. An estimated 9 million children in the U.S. are affected by asthma, a condition brought on by food and air-borne allergens. Finding and controlling the triggers for asthma attacks is a priority, and a team of researchers from Glasgow University of Scotland now believe that the incidence of asthma is directly reflected in the number of hours young children watch TV each day.

More than 3,000 children were followed from age 3 to 11.5 years of age. The study began at age 3 to separate children who had developed asthma before the age of television viewing. The parents of the children were questioned each year on wheezing and breathing symptoms and whether a doctor had diagnosed asthma. The amount of television watch by the children was also analyzed. The amount of time spent on video games and personal computers was not considered because they were not in common usage in the 1990s when the study was begun.

Researchers concluded that the children who watched television for more than two hours per day were at double the risk of developing asthma, compared to those who watched less. Lead author Dr. Andrea Sherriff, of the University of Glasgow and colleagues believe that breathing patterns associated with sedentary behavior could lead to developmental changes in the lungs.

Some parents fear that if their children are too active it will trigger asthma symptoms, but experts stress that regular physical activity improves general health, reduces the probability of obesity, and improves well being. Greg Smith, Asthma Foundation NSW chief executive officer says that "Exercise is part of leading a healthy life and for children it is a particularly important part of growing up." Many famous athletes have asthma and they have followed their athletic ambitions in spite of their breathing problems, Jackie Joyner-Kersey, Olympic medallist, and Dennis Rodman, professional basketball player, are two examples.

Associate Professor Dominic Fitgzerald, from the Westmead Children's Hospital in Sydney says there are interesting links in the study, in that it points for the first time towards a link between sedentary behavior and the diagnosis of asthma. He also said that this is a questionnaire-based study rather than a physical examination or a diagnostic test which would support a label of asthma.

The study in no way suggested that television was the problem, only that it contributed to inactivity. Any indoors pursuit that did not have activity would suggest the same results. Other factors such as indoor air pollution or smokers within the household were not listed in the results. The study is not clearly conclusive but the evidence clearly suggests a parent should turn off the TV and send the children out to play.