Secondhand Smoke and Allergies in Kids

By Drs. David Niesel and Norbert Herzog, Medical Discovery News

You probably know at least one child who suffers from food allergies. Scientists have been studying why so many children face this problem, and now they’ve identified another cause: secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke comes from a burning tobacco product and the smoke exhaled by someone smoking.

Secondhand smoke from tobacco products is a complex mixture of thousands of different chemicals. Hundreds of these chemicals are toxic and at least 70 are carcinogenic. Even brief exposure to these chemicals is not considered safe. It can lead to molecular changes that cause cancer and changes in the cells that line blood vessels and alter platelets in the blood, which can increase the chances of a heart attack. An estimated 2.5 million nonsmoking Americans have died from exposure to secondhand smoke since the mid-1960s. Smoking during pregnancy is especially deadly, leading to 1,000 or more infant deaths annually.

We already know that secondhand smoke can have serious and long-term effects on a child’s health. Exposed children are known to get sick more frequently. Children are more likely to experience wheezing and coughing, and those with asthma are subject to more frequent and severe attacks, which can become life-threatening. They show a reduction in lung growth during their development, and experience more bronchitis, pneumonia and other respiratory and ear infections. Secondhand smoke can also lead to sudden infant death syndrome in children.

A Swedish study published last year studied how exposure to secondhand smoke in children can lead to increased risks of sensitization to food allergens and the development of food allergies. The common foods children are allergic to include cow’s milk, eggs, wheat, peanuts and fish. This large study enrolled more than 3,300 children, —> Read More

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