Can Cigarette Smoke on Clothing Cause Allergy Symptoms?

smoking cigarette
A man smokes a cigarette. (Image: tiverylucky/iStock/Getty Images)

When a smoker smokes a cigarette, the smoke and substances from the cigarette settle on his clothing. Even if he smokes outside or away from family members, when he goes inside and rejoins his family, they are still exposed to the cigarette he just smoked. For children and those who suffer from allergies or asthma, this has serious implications.

Cigarettes and Link to Allergies

Secondhand smoke carried on your clothing can cause small children to develop ear infections, asthma and other lung conditions. If you have just smoked a cigarette and you are around someone who already suffers from allergies or asthma, the smoke that remains on your clothing exacerbates her condition, possibly triggering an asthma attack. If you have been smoking outside, trying to keep the noxious chemicals in cigarettes away from family members, they are still exposed to those chemicals.

San Diego State University Study

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention carried out a study in conjunction with researchers from San Diego State University. This study looked at 49 households divided into three groups. Each family had a child under 1 year of age. The first group was a non-smoking control group. The second group was an indirect exposure group and the third was a direct exposure group. During the study, researchers measured the amounts of nicotine in the homes of participants – on the furniture, dust and air. Nicotine from smoking mothers’ fingers was also measured. Hair and urine samples were taken from each infant.

Researchers found much higher levels of nicotine in the indirect- and direct-exposure homes than in the no-exposure group. Researchers also found that nicotine levels in the living rooms and bedrooms of the direct-exposure families were much higher than they were for families of the indirect-exposure group. Nicotine and continine levels in the hair and urine of infants in direct-exposure families were much higher than infants in the indirect exposure group. Continine is a byproduct of nicotine broken down by the body. Nicotine measurements on the mothers’ fingers in both indirect- and direct-exposure families were similar.

Researchers concluded that parents in the indirect-exposure families still brought cigarette smoke and nicotine into their homes, exposing their babies to the harmful effects.

Upper Airway Problems

Cigarettes can cause several upper airway disorders in non-smokers who are exposed to the smoke. These include sinusitis, allergies, sore throat, ear infections, asthma attacks and pneumonia. When non-smokers already have a lung condition or allergies, they feel the effects more strongly. Children are more likely to suffer these conditions when they are exposed to smoke from the clothing of smokers, according to The University of Arizona.

Tobacco and Allergies

Allergies are a result of the immune system’s reaction to a substance that normally does not cause a strong reaction. The immune system produces antibodies on the first exposure to an allergen. While the person doesn’t experience an allergic reaction on first exposure, when he is exposed again, the antibodies his immune system produced attack the substance – cigarette smoke – leading to an allergy attack. The symptoms of the allergy attack include sneezing, watery eyes, stuffy nose and itchiness. If the person suffers from asthma, he may suffer an asthma attack. Those who already suffer from allergies suffer allergic reactions, including asthma attacks, when they are exposed to cigarette smoke on a smoker’s clothing.

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