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Asthma

Smoke in clothes

06/12/2009

Question:

HELLO I WAS WONDER IF A NINE YEAR OLD CHILD THAT HAS ASTHMA IS NEAR ANYONE WHO HAS SMOKE ON THERE CLOTHES CAN BE AFFECTED WEITHER IF THERE STANDING ,WALKING OR SITING BY HER HOW MUCH PERCENT CAN THAT TIGGER HER ASTHMA

Answer:

Smoke exposure affects individual children with asthma differently - for some, being around smoke will quickly trigger a full "attack," while others don't have obvious symptoms right away - but may cough more later.  Some don't have obvious symptoms - instead their asthma becomes overall harder to control because of the chronic aggravation of the airways by the smoke.

I have had patients/families tell me that if relatives who smoke come to visit, even if they "only smoke outside," it makes their asthma flare up. 

There have been studies that show the children of mothers who report they smoke outside still have significant levels of cotitine (a chemical in cigarette smoke that is inhaled and then deposited in the hair as it grows.)  This shows that some smoke must remain on the mothers after they go inside, and their children still inhale it.

So, children do still inhale smoke from people's clothing. How much they inhale, and how badly it effects the child's asthma, is hard to predict and probably varies from child to child.  A child who is already having a lot of symptoms should not be exposed to ANY source of smoke.  One whose asthma is well controlled might be able to tolerate short visits with someone who's been smoking, then comes inside - but it will depend on the child.

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Response by:

Elizabeth D Allen, MD Elizabeth D Allen, MD
Clinical Associate Professor of Pediatrics
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University