Most people know that smoking is seriously harmful to their health, potentially even deadly. But what they often overlook are the dangers of secondhand smoke. Here at Westchester Health, what we find especially troubling is the fact that secondhand smoke is especially harmful to children, explains Rodd Stein, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician with our Westchester Health Pediatrics group, in a recent blog.
Millions of children breathe in secondhand smoke from their parents
If you smoke around your children, or if they are continually exposed to secondhand smoke from other people or environments, their health, especially their still-developing lungs, are in danger. Even if you only smoke outside, your children are still exposed to the harmful chemicals found in secondhand smoke. The best way to eliminate this health danger? Quit smoking, as soon as possible.
Secondhand smoke is what a smoker breathes out after inhaling a cigarette, cigar, pipe or other smoking device
This inhaled/exhaled smoke typically contains around 4,000 chemicals, many of which are known to cause cancer. When children breathe in this secondhand smoke, they are exposed to these chemicals. Also, there are harmful toxins that remain on materials where people have smoked, such as car seat upholstery or even a child’s hair, these are also harmful.
How secondhand smoke hurts your baby
If you smoke while pregnant, you are exposing your unborn baby to the harmful chemicals contained in tobacco smoke. This can lead to many serious health problems, including:
- Premature birth
- Low birth weight (possibly resulting in a less healthy baby)
- Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
- Learning problems and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
These health risks increase the more you smoke. Quitting anytime during pregnancy helps—the sooner the better.
How secondhand smoke hurts your children
- Children who breathe in secondhand smoke have a higher risk of serious health problems, and existing health problems may become worse.
- They typically have more:
- Ear infections
- Coughs and colds
- Respiratory problems, such as bronchitis and pneumonia
- Tooth decay
- Children of smokers cough and wheeze more and have a harder time getting over colds.
- They miss many more school days than those of non-smokers.
- Secondhand smoke causes many other issues, including stuffy nose, headache, sore throat, eye irritation and hoarseness.
- Children with asthma are especially sensitive to secondhand smoke. It may cause more and more severe asthma attacks, requiring trips to the hospital.
The long-term effects of secondhand smoke on children’s health
Kids who grow up with parents who smoke are themselves more likely to smoke. Furthermore, children who smoke are themselves affected by the same health problems that affect adults, including:
- Lung cancer
- Heart disease
- Poor circulation
- Vascular disease
If you smoke, one of the most important things you can do for your own health and the health of your children is to stop.
Quitting smoking is the best way to prevent your children from being exposed to secondhand smoke and safeguard their health. it’s also the best thing you can do for your own health. To help you on this journey, there are many OTC and prescription medicines that can help you quit. Also, every state has a QuitLine. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW to be connected to the one in your area and for local resources to help you quit.
Additional information and resources:
- Stop Smoking/American Lung Association
- Health Effects of Secondhand Smoke (CDC)
Concerned that your children are being exposed to secondhand smoke? Come see us.
If you smoke and are trying to quit, and are worried about how your smoking might be affecting your children’s health, please come in and see one of our Westchester Health pediatricians. Together, we’ll figure out the best way forward for everyone, and if needed, help you get help to stop smoking. Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.
To read Dr. Stein’s blog in full, click here.