Childr Health Information

Secondhand smoke

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Topic: General Child Health

This handout was written to answer some of the questions most often asked about secondhand smoke. Feel free to ask your nurse, respiratory therapist or doctor to go over any information that you do not understand.

Secondhand smoke from a cigarette (or cigar) comes from two sources – mainstream and sidestream smoke. The smoker exhales mainstream smoke and sidestream smoke rises off the end of a burning cigarette. Sidestream smoke contains two to three times more harmful chemicals than mainstream smoke because it does not pass through the cigarette filter. It contains more than 4,000 dangerous chemicals with at least 40 of them known to cause cancer. It is a killer, responsible for approximately 3,000 deaths every year.

A child in a very smoky room for two hours inhales as many harmful chemicals as he or she would by smoking four or more cigarettes. Studies have shown that when children live in a house where someone smokes they have more respiratory infections. Their symptoms can be more serious and last longer than those of children who live in a smoke-free home. It is especially harmful to children who have asthma or other lung disease. Exposure to smoke can cause severe asthma episodes, more frequent emergency room visits and admissions to the hospital. These children are less likely to outgrow their asthma. The effect of secondhand smoke is worse during the first five years of life when children spend most of their time with their parents. The following are other conditions worsened or caused by secondhand smoke:

Asthma episodes
Middle ear infections
Sinus infections
Eye, nose, throat irritation
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
Cystic Fibrosis
Reduced lung function
Allergies Colds or upper respiratory infections
Coronary heart disease
Increased school absenteeism for all of the above.

1. The most important step you can take is to QUIT! To make quitting easier, attend a smoking cessation program along with using a nicotine replacement.
2. If you are pregnant, your unborn baby has twice the risk for prematurity and newborn problems if you smoke. Avoid smoking if you are breast feeding. Harmful chemicals are found in the breast milk of women who smoke. In addition, the nursing baby is exposed to second hand smoke. If you do not want your child to smoke, set a good example. Studies have shown that children are twice as likely to smoke if their parents smoke.
3. Don’t smoke inside your home or allow anyone else to. Some parents find it hard to give up smoking, but all parents can change their smoking habits. Limit smoking to times you are away from home. If you have to smoke when you are at home, smoke outside.
4. Don’t smoke while holding your child. This will reduce his or her exposure to harmful chemicals and protect him or her from cigarette burns.
5. Don’t smoke in a car especially when your child is a passenger. The harmful chemicals cling to the surface and gradually get into the air. Choose smokefree rental cars.
6. Avoid leaving your child with a caretaker who smokes. Ask about the smoking policy when you are looking for day care centers. Tell others about your rules of not smoking in your house and cars.
7. Sit in the non-smoking section in public places, such as restaurants. Avoid smoky areas, such as bowling alleys.
8. Support smoke-free work sites, daycare centers, schools and public places.

This handout is for general information and should not be considered complete. If you would like to quit smoking or find out more about secondhand smoke, contact The Children's Medical Center, respiratory care department at (937) 641-3266. Protect yourself and your family from secondhand smoke – quit smoking now! Your family will thank you.


Derechos de autor(c) de The Children's Medical Center, ano 1999. Este material unicamente tiene fines educativos. No puede ser reproducido, distribuido ni modificado sin previa autorizacion de The Children's Medical Center of Dayton, One Children's Plaza, Dayton, Ohio, 45404-1815. Llame al 937-641-3666 para solicitar autorizacion o para obtener un juego maestro para copias. Para obtener mas informacion puede visitar (consulte la seccion de informacion legal).

La informacion contenida en este material es unicamente informacion de tipo general. No debe considerarse como completa. Para obtener mas informacion acerca de los complementos para leche materna, por favor pidala a su doctor.
Preparado: 1995
Corregido: 2000,2002,2006

The information contained in this handout is for general information only and should not be considered complete. For specific information about bathing your baby, please ask your doctor or nurse practitioner.

Additional information may be located in the Family Resource Center, 2nd floor, near the Outpatient Surgery Center. Hours of the center vary; please contact the Family Resource Center at 937-641-3700.

Copyright(c) The Children's Medical Center of Dayton. This material is for educational purposes only. It cannot be reproduced or distributed without permission from Dayton Children's.
Formulated: 1995
Revised: 2000,2002,2006


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