Before you strike that match, you might want to know that cigarette smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, including hundreds that are toxic.
About 70 of these chemicals have been linked to cancer.
“For children and others around you who breathe in the secondhand smoke, the effects may be even more harmful,” said Tracy Rife, the asthma and easy breathing program coordinator at Akron Children’s Robert T. Stone, MD, Respiratory Center. “Research has shown that the smoke from the burning end of a cigarette contains more harmful substances than the smoke inhaled by the smoker.”
When inhaled by a child with asthma, irritating substances in cigarette smoke settle in the moist lining of the airways, serving as a powerful trigger of asthma symptoms.
The smoke also damages the tiny hair-like structures in the airways called cilia. Since the cilia sweep dust and mucus out of the airways, these substances can accumulate when they are damaged, leading to a potential asthma attack.
Secondhand smoke has greater adverse effect on childhood asthma
The latest studies also show that cigarette smoke may make a child’s asthma medication less effective.
Since a child’s airways are smaller than an adult’s, smoke affects them more quickly, making them more likely to wheeze, cough and have shortness of breath – especially if they have asthma.
It can also make them more likely to develop sinus and lung infections, which can worsen asthma symptoms. These factors can lead to problems with lung function later in life.
Rife recommends taking the following steps to reduce the impact of cigarette smoke on you, your children and others around you:
- If you smoke, quit. Consider asking your healthcare provider for help finding a smoking cessation program or method.
- If other family members smoke, educate them about the dangers of smoking and encourage them to quit.
- Do not allow smoking in your home or car. When smoking outside, wear a coat with a hood or rain poncho to protect clothing and hair from secondhand smoke.
- Do not let people smoke around your child.
- Avoid public places that permit smoking.