A 2006 report from the Surgeon General on children and secondhand smoke stated that their growing bodies are hurt by exposure to the toxins in smoke. Babies exposed to secondhand smoke have weaker lungs, increased health problems such as bronchitis and pneumonia, and more frequent and severe asthma attacks. Now new research from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine shows that allergic sensitization by age two and early exposure to secondhand smoke impacts lung function of girls more than boys.
The study involved 476 children who were tested for allergen sensitization at age 2, 4 and 7 using a skin prick test. Hair samples were also tested at age 2 and 4 for cotinine which shows nicotine metabolism. All children in the study had lung function testing at age 7. It was found that children living with at least one smoker had more than twice the cotinine levels as children living with non-smoking adults. Although both boys and girls had been exposed to similar amounts of secondhand smoke and allergens, girls were seen to have decreased lung function six times worse then boys by age seven. The younger the age of the child when they develop sensitization, the greater the lung deficits during childhood due to exposure to secondhand smoke.
Exposure to secondhand smoke has been known to cause asthma attacks and decreased lung function in children for years, but this latest study shows the magnitude of damage to developing lungs. You can protect young ones by making sure no smoking is allowed around them, and avoid public areas where smoking is allowed. No level of secondhand smoke is safe for children.
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