My five-year-old has asthma and I’m wondering if me smoking the occasional cigarette outside will make it worse?
The answer is a resounding yes. Tobacco smoke is one of the most common asthma triggers. Tobacco smoke – including second-hand smoke – is a mixture of gases and fine particles that has more than 7,000 chemicals, according to the Centres for Disease Control, including hundreds that are toxic and about 70 that can cause cancer.
There is no safe exposure to second-hand smoke. Babies who are around cigarette smoke are more likely to:
- Get ear infections
- Develop bronchitis and pneumonia
- Die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
Additionally, your child will be more likely to have frequent chest infections, wheezing, coughing and more frequent and severe asthma attacks, and ear infections.
Although you preface this question by acknowledging the outdoor smoking, what about the car and other places your child might be exposed to second-hand smoke? Smoke does stay on your clothes and this is known as third-hand smoke. Studies clearly show us that children with asthma who are exposed to second-hand smoke have more severe symptoms and more frequent outbreaks than other kids with asthma.
The Canadian Lung Association reiterates the concern regarding second-hand smoke and children. They also make the important point that your child should also be protected against the third-hand smoke you are referencing. That is the smoke that gets trapped in furniture, carpets and fabric, and sticks around even after you come inside. That would apply to you and your clothing.
The Canadian Lung Association also points out that children are especially at risk with exposure to both secondhand third-hand smoke because of their faster breathing rate. This means that they breathe in more air relative to their body weight, therefore absorbing more smoke. They also go on to say that kids’ immune systems are less developed putting them at increased risk for infections as well. And a final point, studies show that children with parents who smoke are more likely to take up smoking themselves.
If you won’t quit for your own health benefits, then quit for your child’s health benefits.
Got a question? Submit it to Dr. Marla.
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, December 2013.