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Asthmatic Kids Breathe Easier With Smoke-Free Air

by The Kid's Doctor Staff

A new study shows that for children with asthma, reducing exposure to environmental tobacco smoke greatly decreases their chance of an asthma flare-up, hospital admission or emergency room visit.

“We found this to be true when the child’s exposure (to second-hand smoke) decreased, even if the decrease did not mean completely eliminating their exposure,” said Dr. Lynn B. Gerald of the University of Arizona in Tucson. “Any reduction in environmental tobacco smoke exposure seems to greatly benefit these children.”

Dr. Gerald’s team looked at the association between changes in environmental tobacco smoke exposure and childhood asthma-related illness in 290 asthmatic children enrolled in a clinical trial of supervised asthma therapy. The average age of the children in the study was 11 years and 80 percent had moderate persistent asthma.

At the beginning of the study, 28 percent of caregivers reported that the child was exposed to second-hand smoke in the home and 19 percent reported exposure to smoke outside the home only. At a follow-up interview, 74 percent of caregivers reported no change in the child’s exposure to second-hand smoke, 17 percent reported less exposure, and 9 percent reported increased exposure.

According to the report, which is published in the medical journal Chest, children who had any decrease in exposure to second-hand smoke over the course of one year had fewer episodes of poor asthma control, made fewer respiratory-related trips to the emergency room and were less apt to be hospitalized than children who had the same or increased exposure to second-hand smoke.

“We were not surprised by the findings but we were surprised by the magnitude of the benefit that decreasing smoke exposure appeared to have,” said Dr. Gerald. She said doctors can use this information as another “teaching point” for caregivers and parents of children with asthma. Dr. Gerald and her colleagues also concluded given that the majority of second-hand smoke exposure in the home is due to parents smoking, “the most effective environmental tobacco smoke reduction strategy may be to provide smoking cessation interventions to parents and possibly other household members.”

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