Individuals exposed to second-hand smoke have increased risk of developing respiratory illness, asthma and allergy. Cigarette smoke impairs the integrity of the lung epithelial layer and facilitates the penetration of allergens by compromising the innate defense mechanisms in the lungs. Symptoms of cigarette allergy are similar to asthma – shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing and impaired lung function
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Indoor Cigarette Smoke
Particulate matter from indoor cigarette smoking can exacerbate airway inflammation, wheezing and chronic coughing in nonsmokers, according to Danish researchers in the April 2010 issue of “Respirology.” Investigators conducted a cross-sectional survey of over 3,400 adults and collected information on indoor exposure to particulate matter through questionnaires. Investigators found that exposure to smoke and particulate matter from wood stoves, candles and gas stoves was not significantly correlated to the onset of asthma-like symptoms; however, the study found that individuals exposed to indoor cigarette smoking for more than 5 hours a day had a 1.5 greater risk for the development of allergic symptoms including wheezing, chronic coughing and decreased lung function compared to those not exposed.
Prenatal and early childhood exposure to second-hand smoke can increase the likelihood of children developing respiratory illnesses. Researchers in Barcelona, Spain, followed over 1,600 children from pregnancy until 4 years of age to document the incidence of respiratory disease. Parents were asked to complete yearly questionnaires on tobacco use and the incidence of wheezing, persistent whistling, coughing, asthma and respiratory infections in their children. The study found a distinct relationship between pre- and postnatal cigarette smoke exposure and the incidence of respiratory diseases. The authors concluded that smoking cessation and avoidance must be a priority for women of child-bearing age and those with young children.
Exposure to environmental tobacco smoke, or ETS, increases the risk of respiratory illness and allergy in children, according to researchers in a February 2008 study published in “Thorax.” Investigators from the Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden, surveyed over 4,000 families with children on their tobacco use and symptoms of allergic diseases. Additionally, blood samples from 2,614 of the children were analyzed for IgE antibodies, chemical messengers that are released by white blood cells during inhalant and food allergen exposure in sensitive individuals. Although there was no correlation between maternal smoking and the incidence of allergy, exposure to ETS during the first few months of life was associated with a significant increase in allergy and respiratory diseases in children.
Compromised Lung Functrion
Particulates in tobacco smoke are common and avoidable air-born toxins that have been clearly associated with wheezing, impaired lung growth and susceptibility to bacterial lung infections in children, according to a February 2008 article in “Paediatric Respiratory Reviews.” Researchers at the University of Western Australia investigated the effects of cigarette smoke exposure on toll-like receptors, or TLRs, which are proteins that mediate immune responses to bacterial infections. The authors found that cigarette smoke exposure adversely alters TLR function and inhibits innate immunity function thereby predisposing children to microbial infections. The study concluded that parental smoking is an important contributor to respiratory bacterial infections and allergy in children.