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We’ve seen studies that suggested rural children are less likely to have asthma, presumably due to early-life exposure to dust and other environmental allergens which may have protected them.

However, a new University of Saskatchewan study shows “this may not be entirely the case,” researcher Oluwafemi Oluwole said in a recent release. “We found that rural children are less likely to be diagnosed for asthma. As a result, they may have more difficulties managing their asthma. This may lead to discomfort, limitations to their daily activities, and stress for them and their families.”

Comparing data from children and teenagers who lived in urban and rural areas, researchers found rural parents had to travel 30 minutes longer to access healthcare for their children, compared to their city counterparts.

“The issue of asthma underdiagnosis in rural areas is complex but the longer time to travel to obtain health care may impact rural parents’ decisions to take their child to a healthcare facility,” Joshua Lawson, a professor in the U of S College of Medicine, said in the same release.

Families were surveyed starting in 2013 and children were tested with equipment for lung health measurement. The self-reporting survey indicated almost 21 per cent of urban children had asthma, versus 15 per cent of rural children.

The researchers then tested almost 290 children with equipment for lung health measurement — which showed rural children without a history of diagnosed asthma based on survey responses were more likely to be reclassified as having asthma compared to urban children.

“School-based screening programs designed to meet community needs could help improve children’s asthma diagnosis in Saskatchewan rural areas, so parents and children won’t have to travel long distances,” said Oluwole, whose next step is to study how and whether asthma changes over time in children in urban and rural areas.

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