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Friday, July 31, 2009

Pinheads smoke in front of asthmatic children

I've written more than a few times on this blog how unwise it is to smoke in front of children, let alone anyone; that those who smoke in front of kids are pinheads. If that's not bad enough, smoking around an asthmatic kid should land the smoker in jail for child abuse.

I reiterated this point in my latest asthma blog post:

Smoking around asthmatic children is unwise
by Rick Frea Tuesday, April 14, 2009

If common sense were to prevail, no person would ever smoke in front of kids -- especially kids with asthma. Yet we all know it happens.

Just the other day I was paged to do a breathing treatment on a six-year-old boy with asthma. I couldn't help but notice that both parents reeked of cigarette smoke.

As a
respiratory therapist, few things frustrate me more than this, perhaps because I was a child asthmatic who, on occasion, had to sit in smoke filled rooms (I wrote about this experience here).

I knew a doctor once who would call the police when he learned a parent was smoking in front of a child with a chronic lung disease. He would say, "This is child abuse."

My job as an RT is to educate these parents not just on the dangers of smoking, but that second-hand smoke can trigger an asthma attack, and make an ongoing attack worse.

Cigarette smoke also further damages not just the smoker's lungs, but the lungs of nonsmokers who are forced to breath in
second hand smoke -- like kids.

Some parents heed my advice and
stop smoking, at least stop smoking in front of kids. However, a few choose to ignore the wisdom I present. One dad completely denied second-hand smoke was dangerous.

Now, however, thanks to a new study conducted at the University of Alabama (
and discussed here), we have proof a link between tobacco smoke and asthma morbidity exists.

The study consisted of 290 children with persistent asthma, 28% of whom were exposed to smoke in the house, and 19% who were exposed to smoke outside the house. All the children were educated on the dangers of second hand smoke, and were educated about avoiding their asthma triggers -- especially second hand smoke. Of the children whose exposure to second hand smoke decreased, "fewer hospitalizations and emergency department visits were reported in the 12 months prior to the second interview compared to the 12 months prior to the first interview. Additionally, these children were 48% less likely to experience an episode of poor asthma control."

While this is a new study, this is not new wisdom. In
fatal asthma, a book published in 1998, the authors write:

"Surveys have shown 53-76% of children's homes have one or more smokers, and an estimated 8.7 million children in the U.S. under age 5 are exposed to cigarette smoke at home. Asthmatic children whose parents smoke may have more asthma symptoms and more frequent exacerbation's requiring emergency department management."

I have no problem with people smoking. I think it's fine if a grown adult chooses to put arsenic, acetic acid, acetone, ammonia, benzene, butane, carbon monozide, ethanol, formaldehyde, hydrazine, hexamine, hydrogen cyanide, lead, methane, mathanol, napthalene, nickel, nicotine, phenol, polonium, stearic acid, styrene, tar and toluene and 3,580 other substances into his body (which are the contents of one cigarette). But, a child doesn't get to choose. He is forced to breath whatever air is provided for him.

The importance of the Alabama study is that it acts as a reminder to members of the medical profession the importance of asthma education. It is my job as an educator to inform the asthmatic -- which include my patients and you -- to avoid your asthma triggers, which include cigarette smoke.

If your child has asthma, and you are smoking in front of him, chances are you're making his asthma worse. So, here's my lecture to you:
Be a responsible parent and don't smoke in front of your asthmatic child, or any kid for that matter.

If you have asthma and are gutsy enough to smoke yourself, my lecture to scare you into quitting will come soon. So stay tuned.

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