Second-hand smoke: Should parents of children with asthma be concerned?
Yes, parents of children who have asthma should be very concerned about second-hand smoke. Every year, between 12,000 and 15,000 children suffer from asthma because of exposure to second-hand smoke in homes, cars, and hotels or motels. (source). Second-hand smoke is a serious health hazard and there is no safe level of exposure to it.
What is second-hand smoke?
Second-hand smoke, also known as environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), is a combination of mainstream smoke (smoke exhaled from a smoker) and sidestream smoke (smoke from the burning end of a cigarette, cigar or pipe). (source). What is surprising to many people, is that second-hand smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals, more than 50 of which cause cancer (source).
How second-hand smoke affects children with asthma
In general, children are more affected by second-hand smoke because their lungs and immune systems are still developing. When a child lives in a home where even one person is a smoker, he or she has more respiratory problems and infections that often last longer and are more severe. The more people there are who smoke in a particular home, the more severe are the respiratory problems for the child living there.
For children with asthma, second-hand smoke is very dangerous. It affects the muscles around the airways, causing difficulty in breathing. (source). These children experience:
- more frequent and severe asthma attacks
- asthma that is harder to control
- more emergency room visits and hospital stays more sick days from school.
In fact, any children living in households with smokers are at risk for:
- lower respiratory track infections (bronchitis), pneumonia, croup, etc.
- upper respiratory track problems
- middle ear infections (otitis media)
- reduction in lung function
- nose irritation
- eye irritation
- coughing and wheezing
- sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
So never forget that second-hand smoke is dangerous, especially for children with asthma. You should be concerned.
Glynis Sheppard for Consumer Health Information Service, Toronto Public Library
Toronto Public Library. Consumer Health Information Service. Asthma wiki.
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