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Does Secondhand Smoke Cause Asthma

How Can You Reduce Your Familys Exposure To Secondhand And Thirdhand Smoke

Does Secondhand Smoke Trigger Asthma Symptoms?

As a parent, you can limit your childrens exposure to tobacco smoke. To do this, you can quit smoking yourself, if you are a smoker. You can also ask guests to not smoke in or near your house or car. Wherever possible, protect your kids from secondhand and thirdhand smoke.

Quitting is not easy, but it is possible. Stop-smoking programs, counseling and products like nicotine gum or patches can help. Your doctor should be able to help you. Until you quit, do not smoke around your child, in your home or in your car.

Choose childcare carefully so your children will not suffer from the harmful effects of secondhand and thirdhand smoke. Remember, children exposed to secondhand and thirdhand smoke may get sick more often. Protecting them from exposure is good preventive medicine. Your childs health depends on it.

What Is Secondhand Smoke

Most people know that smoking is dangerous. In the past 50 years, the U.S. has seen a 50% decline in smoking. That has saved an estimated 8 million lives and almost a million deaths from lung cancer. It sounds like were doing well, especially if you dont smoke. Unfortunately, secondhand smoke puts nonsmokers, including children, at risk.

Secondhand smoke is defined as the combination of smoke from burning cigarettes and the smoke breathed out by smokers.

Secondhand smoke has more than 7,000 chemicals. Of those chemicals, hundreds are toxic, and 70 may cause cancer. This poses a risk for everyone, but people with allergies and asthma will suffer more. Inhaling secondhand smoke inflames the airways and weakens respiratory function. This can aggravate symptoms and trigger asthma attacks.

Some of the toxic components of secondhand smoke include:

These chemicals are dangerous to breathe in and they coat surfaces where people smoke. They also settle into house dust for all to inhale.

Banning smoking in your home or car is a good start, but more education is needed about the dangers of secondhand smoke. Human health depends on smoke-free laws in public spaces and housing units.

How To Avoid Secondhand Smoke

Avoiding secondhand smoke should be everyones goal. If you or someone you love smokes, make quitting a priority . Quitting is hard, but coaching, smartphone apps, and cessation medicine can help. Talk to your doctor for more advice.

There are many ways to avoid contact with secondhand smoke, including:

  • Dont allow smoking in or close to your home. Fans, open windows and air purifiers will not stop the risks.
  • If you live in an apartment that allows smoking, know your rights. Consider speaking to neighbors and building management about the dangers of secondhand smoke. The American Nonsmokers Rights Foundation has resources to help.
  • Dont allow smoking inside your vehicle, even with the windows down.
  • Dont allow babysitters or family members to smoke around your kids.
  • If your child attends daycare, make sure smoking on the premises isnt allowed.
  • Patronize smoke-free restaurants, hotels, and public spaces. Be aware that No Smoking sections are not enough to separate you from smokers.
  • If your workplace allows smoking, talk to your employer about why smoke-free is best.
  • Avoid vaping and e-cigarettes as well as tobacco smoking. They are not harmless, containing cancer-causing chemicals and heavy metals.

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What Are The Effects Of Secondhand Smoke

Children, the elderly, and people with asthma are significantly affected by secondhand smoke. Inhaling tobacco smoke weakens the hair-like cilia in the lungs. Cilia act to rid your airways of mucus and other particles.

Secondhand smoke also encourages mucus production and irritates your airways. If you have asthma or allergies, this can mean worsening symptoms and a more challenging time breathing. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that since 1964, 2.5 million people have died due to secondhand smoke exposure.

Many U.S. cities have laws banning smoking in workplaces, restaurants, and public areas. Smoke-free laws are a good start towards protecting people but are far from enough. There are steps you can take to safeguard your family from this health hazard.

How Is Secondhand Smoke Exposure Diagnosed


Most people who inhale secondhand smoke are not tested for exposure. If you regularly breathe in someone elses smoke, your doctor may test your saliva , urine or blood for amounts of inhaled nicotine.

Your healthcare provider also may test your lung function to measure damage. Pulmonary function tests can identify conditions related to secondhand smoke dangers, like asthma.

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How Do I Know If My Child Has Asthma

  • Young children with asthma will often cough at night or when running around. You may hear a high-pitched squeak when your child breathes out . Albuterol, a medication used for asthma, will often make children feel better and breath more easily.
  • Pediatricians will often treat children for asthma if they have these symptoms of cough, wheeze, and difficulty breathing.
  • Pediatric Pulmonologists, lung doctors for children, can also diagnose children with asthma by doing a breathing test called a Pulmonary Function Test . This tests also helps keep track of whether your childs lungs are getting better or worse.

How Can I Quit Smoking

  • Discuss quitting with your doctor. Decide when youll quit and prepare for that day.
  • Discard all cigarettes, lighters and ashtrays.
  • Avoid all situations that may trigger your desire to smoke. For example, if you always have a cigarette after a meal, get up and take a walk instead or immediately begin to clear the table, etc.
  • Whenever you get the urge to smoke, take a deep breath and hold it for five to ten seconds.
  • Dont let others smoke in your home.
  • Keep finger foods, like carrot sticks, handy. Or, chew gum when you get the urge to smoke.
  • Stay active to keep your mind off smoking. Go for walks or read a book.
  • Join a support group or smoking cessation class.
  • Talk to your doctor about nicotine replacement aids that can help when you are trying to quit.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/30/2021.


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Current Methods Of Treating Asthma Patients

Anti-inflammatory drugs are the most popular treatment among people suffering from asthma. The steroids are inhaled through devices called inhalers, which are short-acting broncho-dilators. Broncho-dilators work to open your airway passages relieving shortness of breath, wheezing, cough and chest tightness caused by asthma.

Asthma affects an estimated 35 million people each year, claiming the lives of 4,000 Americans each year.

Some patients with more serious cases of asthma treat themselves with breathing-treatments. A nebulizer is an in-home machine that changes the medication from a liquid to a mist so that it can be more easily absorbed by the lungs when inhaled . These treatments may cause restlessness, headaches, nausea, and even more serious side effects such as seizures.

How Is The Condition Diagnosed

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To diagnose asthma, your physician will question you about your symptoms, perform a physical exam, and conduct lung function tests. You also may be tested for allergies.

Your internist or family physician may refer you to an allergist or pulmonologist for specialized testing or treatment.

After middle age, most adults experience a decrease in their lung capacity. These changes in lung function may lead some physicians to overlook asthma as a possible diagnosis.

Untreated asthma can contribute to even greater permanent loss of lung function. If you have any asthma symptoms, dont ignore them, and dont try to treat them yourself. Get a definitive diagnosis from your health care provider.

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If Your Asthma Symptoms Are Caused By Allergies Take Steps To Control Knownor Potential Triggers In Your Environment

Allergy-proof your house for dust, mold, cockroaches, and other common indoor allergens to which you are allergic.

Reduce your outdoor activities when the pollen count or ozone level is high.

Choose foods that dont contribute to your asthma or allergy symptoms.

Evaluate your workplace for possible allergens and take the necessary steps to reduce your exposure to them.

In order to determine relevant triggers, you may want to seek consultation with an allergist who can further define these triggers.

In addition, anyone with asthma should consider getting an annual flu shot. Older adults also should talk with their internist about getting a pneumonia vaccination.

Secondhand smoke is the combination of smoke from the burning end of a cigarette and the smoke breathed out by smokers. Secondhand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals. Hundreds are toxic and about 70 can cause cancer.1,2,3,4

Since the 1964 Surgeon Generals Report, 2.5 million adults who were nonsmokers died because they breathed secondhand smoke.1

There is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke.

  • Secondhand smoke causes numerous health problems in infants and children, including more frequent and severe asthma attacks, respiratory infections, ear infections, and sudden infant death syndrome .1,4
  • Smoking during pregnancy results in more than 1,000 infant deaths annually.4
  • Some of the health conditions caused by secondhand smoke in adults include coronary heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer.1,4

Secondhand Cannabis Smoke May Cause Allergy Worsen Asthma In Children

By Rob Goodier, Reuters Health

3 Min Read

â Secondhand marijuana smoke appears to have provoked a cannabis allergy and worsened the asthma of a 6-year-old child, researchers told the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunologys annual conference in Seattle.

The findings may be the first reported case of cannabis allergy in a child, the researchers said November 16 as they described the details.

The young patient had poorly controlled asthma and lived with adult family members who often smoked marijuana at home. The boys grandmother also had a history of hives after smoking marijuana. Skin prick tests and blood tests confirmed that both the boy and his grandmother were allergic to cannabis.

The boys asthma improved after family members stopped smoking cannabis in the home, as confirmed by further medical tests and reports from the family.

Children exposed to secondhand marijuana smoke can become allergic to cannabis, which in turn may significantly worsen their asthma or allergy symptoms, said the reports lead author Dr. Bryce Hoffman, an Allergy and Immunology Fellow at National Jewish Health in Denver, Colorado. This is particularly concerning as the cannabis may not be suspected as a cause.

The problem may become more widespread as exposure rates increase with the trend toward cannabis legalization in U.S. states and other countries, Hoffman noted.

If they dont, they could miss a significant trigger for asthma and other allergy symptoms, Tuck said.

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How Does Secondhand Smoke Affect Children

Young children may seem less vulnerable than infants but their bodies are still developing. Like babies, they cant control their surroundings. Secondhand smoke brings increased incidence of:

  • Lung infections such as pneumonia and bronchitis
  • Colds and other respiratory illnesses
  • Shortness of breath and wheezing

For children with asthma, secondhand smoke can trigger an attack. Getting sick more often can worsen symptoms and make asthma harder to control.

Avoiding secondhand smoke is crucial to the health of all children.

How Can Passive Smoking Harm My Unborn Baby

Negative Effects of Secondhand Smoke

When someone smokes while pregnant, dangerous chemicals from the cigarette are passed through the bloodstream direct to the baby in the womb.

Smoking or breathing in second-hand smoke during pregnancy can cause serious harm to your baby. It can:

  • slow down the development of your childs lungs
  • increase the risk of premature birth and low birth weight â children born prematurely or with a low birth weight are more likely to develop a lung condition
  • result in your childs lungs becoming sensitive to air pollution when theyre older.

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How Does Tobacco Smoke Trigger Asthma

When a person inhales tobacco smoke, irritating substances settle in the moist lining of the airways. These substances can cause an attack in a person who has asthma.

In addition, tobacco smoke damages tiny hair-like structures in the airways called cilia. Normally, cilia sweep dust and mucus out of the airways. Tobacco smoke damages cilia so they are unable to work, allowing dust and mucus to accumulate in the airways.

Smoke also causes the lungs to make more mucus than normal. As a result, even more mucus can build up in the airways, triggering an attack.

Some Common Symptoms From Smoke Exposure May Include:

  • worsening of allergies

Those with Asthma or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease , are especially at risk. Worsening Asthma or COPD symptoms that are not managed can lead to an Asthma emergency or a COPD lung attack. A COPD lung attack can be just as deadly as a heart attack. Both a COPD lung attack and an Asthma emergency may result in the need for hospitalization and even death.

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How Can I Prevent Asthma Attacks In My Child

  • You as the parent can prevent asthma attacks by giving your child a smoke-free environment! Even when you smoke outside, smoke sticks to your skin, clothes, and hair. You continue to breathe out smoke even after you stop smoking. This can expose your child to smoke when you kiss, cuddle, and interact with him/her. Making sure your child is not exposed to smoke can save him/her from very dangerous asthma attacks.

Exposure To Smoke Outside The Home

Children Exposed to Secondhand Smoke – American Medical Association (AMA)

Even if no one in your household smokes, kids will still be around secondhand smoke at times. Try to help them avoid it as much as possible.

If your child has asthma, let friends, relatives, and caregivers know that tobacco smoke may cause an asthma flare-up. To protect your child from having to breathe in smoke:

  • Donât allow guests to smoke in your house or car.
  • Avoid smoky restaurants and parties. Choosing the nonsmoking section is not enough protection.
  • Ask friends and relatives not to smoke around your child.
  • Choose caregivers who donât smoke or, if they do, ask them not to smoke around your child.
  • Encourage family members who smoke to quit.

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Asthma And Smoking When You Cant Avoid Smoky Places

If you cant always keep away from smoky places, it is important to manage your asthma on a daily basis. If you need to take your reliever medication more than two times a week , visit your doctor. Your asthma management plan might need to be adjusted.

Remember to take your reliever medication with you when you visit a smoky place.

Secondhand Smoke Causes Lung Cancer

Secondhand smoke causes lung cancer in adults who have never smoked.4

  • Nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or at work increase their risk of developing lung cancer by 2030%.2
  • Secondhand smoke causes more than 7,300 lung cancer deaths among U.S. nonsmokers each year.4
  • Nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke are inhaling many of the same cancer-causing substances and poisons as smokers.2,3,4
  • Even brief secondhand smoke exposure can damage cells in ways that set the cancer process in motion.4
  • As with active smoking, the longer the duration and the higher the level of exposure to secondhand smoke, the greater the risk of developing lung cancer.4

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How Vaping Triggers Asthma Symptoms

Reasons why vaping triggers asthma symptoms include:

  • The main chemicals in e-cigarettes, such as propylene glycol and vegetable glycerine, have been linked to increased cough, mucus secretions, chest tightness and reduced lung function, all of which can make asthma worse.
  • Vaping can irritate the lungs airways, making asthma attacks more likely.
  • Research has linked some flavoured additives in e-cigarettes to causing cell damage in the airways which worsens asthma.
  • One comprehensive study of more than 19,000 e-cigarette users found common side effects included coughing and a dry throat, which could make asthma worse.
  • Vaping may help pneumonia-causing bacteria to stick to cells that line the airways, causing further damage to the lungs. People with asthma might be vulnerable to this.
  • Vaping might impair the lungs ability to fight infection, increasing the risk of more severe asthma attacks.

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Children Whose Fathers Breathed Cigarette Smoke More Likely To Get Asthma Study

Manantial de Salud Dove Springs

Research offers evidence that tobacco could damage health of people two generations later

Children are much more likely to develop asthma if their father was exposed to tobacco smoke when he was growing up, a study has found.

And they are at even greater risk of suffering from the common lung condition if their father was a smoker himself, according to the international team of researchers.

The findings, published in the European Respiratory Journal, provide further evidence for the possible existence of a transgenerational effect in which smoking can damage the health of people born two generations later.

We found that the risk of non-allergic asthma in children increases by 59% if their fathers were exposed to secondhand smoke in childhood, compared to children whose fathers were not exposed.

The risk was even higher, at 72%, if the fathers were exposed to secondhand smoke and went on to smoke themselves, said Jiacheng Liu, from Melbourne University, one of the co-authors.

The study was undertaken by a team of Australian, British and Sri Lankan researchers.

Dr Dinh Bui, another co-author, said: Our findings show how the damage caused by smoking can have an impact not only on smokers but also their children and grandchildren.

Given their conclusions, men should try to avoid smoking if at all possible, to reduce the risk of affecting the health of their own sons or their offspring, Bui added.

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