Secondhand Smoke Exposure Means
By Kellie Carroll, MPA, RRT-NPS, AE-C
The dangers of exposing children with asthma to secondhand smoke are well known, but until recently it was difficult to say exactly how much secondhand smoke increases asthma symptoms and the risk of serious asthma flare-ups. Now, however, researchers from the Mayo Clinic Children’s Research Center have reviewed 25 studies involving more than 400,000 children with asthma that examined the effects of exposure to smoke at home on the children’s level of asthma control.
Their results show that children with asthma who are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke have an increased risk of hospitalization due to asthma flare-ups. The increase is no insignificant amount either. Children exposed to secondhand smoke have twice as many hospitalizations when compared to children without secondhand smoke exposure.
A known asthma trigger
The increased rate of hospitalizations seen in this study is due to increased asthma symptoms caused by exposure to secondhand smoke, a common asthma trigger.
As if an increased risk of hospitalization isn’t scary enough, exposure to secondhand smoke is also associated with less controlled asthma. Less controlled asthma leads to more frequent and more severe acute asthma flare-ups. Even without hospitalizations, less controlled asthma can mean more missed days of school, more costly visits to the doctor’s office or emergency room, and more limitations in sports and other activities.
Many of these problems can be prevented by decreasing a child’s exposure to secondhand smoke. Encouraging and supporting smoking cessation can be a cost-effective measure to reduce expensive emergency room visits and hospitalizations.
Help with quitting
Smoking cessation help is available through a variety of resources. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Cancer Institute, and National Institutes of Health partnered together to form a smoking cessation support website called smokefree.gov that provides readily available free help in the form of a quit plan, advice from former smokers, a live instant messaging service, telephone quit line, texts, and apps.
Most local and state health departments can also provide smoking cessation support services. Your child’s asthma clinic may be able to help, too. For example, the Mayo Clinic Children’s Center partnered with the Nicotine Dependence Center and the Mayo Center for Innovation to support parents in their smoking cessation journey during the child’s clinic appointment.
Benefits for all
It isn’t easy to quit smoking, but improving your child’s health can provide a strong motivation that stretches beyond your own health and wellbeing. Better asthma control means, of course, that your child will have fewer asthma symptoms, fewer flare-ups, fewer missed school days, fewer emergency room and sick clinic visits, and lastly, fewer hospitalizations.
As a parent, you’ll also benefit from better asthma management by avoiding expensive and stressful emergency room visits and hospitalizations and missing fewer days of work due to having a sick child at home. Finally, and most importantly, you’ll have a healthier, more active child with better-controlled asthma.Kellie Carroll is a member of the American Association for Respiratory Care from Missouri, where she is a respiratory therapist at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City and vice-president elect of the Missouri Society for Respiratory Care.