Asthma attacks, triggers & remedies: children exposed to second-hand smoke at home has twice as many hospitalizations, study suggests

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Sep 25, 2015 06:00 AM EDT

Asthma affects 9.3 percent of children and 8 percent of adults in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. Asthmatic children in homes with smokers are at an even greater risk, a new research review reveals.

Eurekalert reports that according to an article in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the scientific publication of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), researchers reviewed 25 studies involving smoking exposure at home. The review involved 430,000 children with ages at about 7.6 years, and 96 percent of these kids were exposed to smoking at home. Researchers were led to conclude that versus asthmatic children who are not exposed to second hand smoke (SHS), those who are, are twice at risk for hospitalization.

Zhen Wang, PhD, lead author of the study explained, "Previous studies have linked SHS exposure with increased asthma prevalence, poorer asthma control and increased symptoms. We wanted to quantify the strength of the association, and to show just how much greater the risk is of hospitalization for kids with asthma who are exposed to SHS in the home."

Reuters also reports that asthmatic children who breathe in SHS were 3 times more at risk of poor lung function and had 32 percent higher odds of wheezing symptoms.

Allergist Avni Joshi, MD, ACAAI member and senior author of the article explained, "The results of this review serve as a reminder to parents of just how dangerous it is to expose their children to SHS."

"Allergists are trained to work with both children and adults to get their asthma under control. Controlled asthma means fewer emergency room visits, hospitalizations and proper use of long-term controller medications," Joshi said.

Sam Oh, a tobacco researcher at the University of California, San Francisco also told Reuters, "Tobacco smoke is a complex mixture of toxins, carcinogens and irritants. Exposure to this brew causes immediate, measurable damage to our blood vessels and prevents them from functioning normally, including causing a child to have an asthma attack severe enough to warrant hospitalization."

According to Joshi, "There is hope that smoking cessation will help improve asthma symptoms and health care utilization even after any duration or extent of second-hand tobacco exposure. In addition, children learn from parental behavior and they are less likely to start smoking themselves if they do not observe parental tobacco use."

While the causes of childhood asthma have not been defined, it has been linked to various factors such as exposure to cigarette smoke and air pollution. Toxins in the air, viral infections, allergies, physical activity, and weather changes may also cause asthma attacks. The ACAAI recommends getting asthma care from allergists, as it is associated with better patient outcomes, compared to regular care from generalists.

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