Too much screen time can have an adverse impact on the health of urban children with asthma, according a new study.
The urban children with asthma engage in an average of an hour more of screen time daily.
"We know that both asthma and excessive screen time can be associated with other difficulties, including behaviour problems, difficulty with attention, poor school performance and obesity," said Kelly M. Conn, M.P.H., of General Pediatrics at Golisano Children's Hospital at Strong and lead author of the study.
During the study, the researchers surveyed parents of urban children with asthma in Rochester, NY, to better understand their screen time viewing habits.
The screen time includes TV watching and video tapes, playing video and computer games and using the Internet.
The study found that 74 percent of the 226 children whose parents were surveyed exceeded more than two hours of screen time per day. On average, these children with asthma watched 3.4 hours daily.
The widespread presence and popularity of screen time activities in children's lives makes monitoring and setting limits for screen use very difficult. In addition, in an urban setting, safety concerns often limit a child's ability to engage in activities outside of the home.
Even though the goals of asthma therapy are to quell asthmatic symptoms and prevent limitations with activities, about 63 percent of children used screen time when their asthma symptoms physically limited their activities.
Those children who used screens when they were having physically limiting symptoms used an average of 3.67 hours daily, which is more than half an hour extra daily than children who engaged in other non-physical activities such as resting, reading or colouring.
Children with asthma most likely watch a similar amount of screen time to all children, but children with asthma are more at risk for the health problems associated with too much screen time.
Conn suggests that parents of children with asthma can encourage a variety of alternate activities for their child, including reading, drawing and arts and crafts, or playing board games or puzzles.
In addition, if a child is experiencing limitation of activity due to their asthma, parents should speak with their child's medical provider about ways to improve their asthma control.
"It is not unreasonable or uncommon for children to watch TV or play a video game when they are not feeling well or when they need to slow down their activity," said Conn.
"For all children, it is important for parents to be aware of how much screen time their children have and the types of programs they are watching," she added.
The study is published in Academic Pediatrics.