Smoke Exposure a Concern for Children

Second smoke exposure associated with asthma risks

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Despite many public policy recommendations, asthmatic children are still being exposed to second-hand smoke. This early exposure to cigarette smoke can lead to lifelong problems.

National health guidelines recommend children, especially children with asthma, to avoid second-hand smoke. Cigarette smoke can not only trigger an asthma attack but can also lead to worsening asthma symptoms and lung problems.

"Talk to your doctor about ways to quit smoking."

The study was led by Lara J. Akinbami, MD, FAAP, medical officer, National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Researchers evaluated data of 972 children, ages ranged from six to 19, from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

The NHANES was conducted between 2003 and 2010 and involved children who were diagnosed with asthma by a doctor. The children were interviewed and had medical examinations.

Interview questions included household smoking habits, personal smoking habits and asthma history. Blood samples were also collected to measure cigarette exposure.

The study focused on the effects of second-hand smoke on school and work days missed, days with sleep disturbance, doctor's office visits, emergency department visits, physical activity limitations and wheezing during exercise or physical activity. According to the study, 53 percent of the 972 children were exposed to second-hand smoke between 2005 and 2010.

Second-hand smoke exposure was associated with increasing the odds of having three or more visits to a doctor's office or emergency department, due to wheezing, compared to the odds of having no visits to the doctor or emergency department. Increased odds of sleep disturbance of one night or more were also associated with second-hand smoke exposure when compared to no days of sleep disturbance.

Increased odds of activity limitation due to wheezing, be it fair, moderate or a lot compared to none, were also associated with second-hand smoke. There was no significant association between second-hand smoke exposure and days of work or school missed or wheezing while exercising.

While these results are not surprising, the continued exposure of children to second-hand smoke is. Despite national health guidelines, children are still being exposed to cigarette smoke and that is affecting quality of life and asthma symptoms. Further, it affects families economically as well due to doctor and emergency department visits.

While guidelines make it clear about avoiding second-hand smoke, new public health policies are needed to better educate families about the harm of second-hand smoke on children with asthma while providing new tools to achieve that goal, according to researchers. 

The study was presented at the annual meeting of Pediatric Academic Societies. All results are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

No author conflicts were reported.

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Review Date: 
May 2, 2012
Last Updated:
May 4, 2012