Living near a park 'eases child asthma symptoms'
8th September 2017 – Children with asthma who live in cities can expect their symptoms to worsen the further they live away from parks, a small study suggests.
Researchers say green open spaces mean pollution levels are lower but opportunities for getting more exercise are also important too.
The study was based on 196 children aged between 3 and 12 from Baltimore in the US who had poorly controlled asthma. Most of the children were black, from poor backgrounds, and had either gone to A&E because of asthma symptoms or been hospitalised for their condition over the past year.
Baltimore has pollution levels slightly lower than those recorded in London.
Wheezing and shortness of breath
Parents were asked on how many days each child had exhibited asthma symptoms, including shortness of breath, chest pain and wheezing.
Each child's home was also plotted on a map to check how close or distant they were from a green space.
Some of the children lived next door to a park, while others were more than a kilometre away. On average, the children were only 250 metres from their nearest park.
The study found that children had one extra day when they experienced asthma symptoms for every 305 metres between their home and the nearest park.
That meant that a child who lived next to a park had an average of 5 days of asthma symptoms in 2 weeks, compared to a child living 305 metres from the park who could expect 6 days of symptoms.
This effect was more pronounced among older children who were more likely to go to the park on their own.
The researchers say their findings lend support to the importance of incorporating open spaces into the city landscape to improve children's health.
The study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing and Medicine and the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, is being presented next week at the European Respiratory Society International Congress 2017 in Milan.
The results should be treated with caution as they have yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Pollution, activity and stress
Dr Samantha Walker, director of research and policy at Asthma UK, comments in a statement: "This is an interesting study which suggests that living near greenspace encourages physical activity, decreases stress and filters environmental and air pollution – in turn, decreasing asthma symptom days in older children. However, this is only a small study and further research with more participants is needed to see if this holds true in different populations in different parts of the world.
"One in 11 children in the UK have asthma – that’s around 3 in every classroom – and we know that air pollution has a severe impact on the health and the quality of life of people with asthma.
"This highlights the importance of a Clean Air Act that gives local authorities power to tackle this problem and clean up our air alongside central government. It is also important that people with asthma, and parents of children with asthma, living in highly polluted areas pay particular attention to making sure their asthma is well managed."