MedWatch Today: Secondhand Smoke and your Kids

Med Watch Today

FRESNO, California (KSEE/KGPE) – We all want to protect our kids, but how do we protect them from secondhand smoke? Pediatric Pulmonologist, John Moua, explains how everyone can help.

“So, in general, and I think most adults know this–smoking in general is pretty bad for us. That’s just across the board, whether it’s tobacco smoking, cigar smoking, marijuana smoking, vaping, all of that across the board is just bad in general for your health. Unfortunately, the population that I take care of are usually the kids with chronic respiratory illnesses,” said Medical Director of the Pediatric Specialty Center at Community Regional, Dr. John Moua.

However, it’s not always as preventable as keeping your kids away from people who smoke.

“So, there’s two aspects of it, what I find, particularly in the pediatric population is that there’s smoke exposure, which is like secondhand smoking, but there’s also environmental secondhand smoke exposure which are more like wood burning stoves–that’s a big aspect in the Valley,” said Dr. Moua.

The Environmental Protection Agency reports smoke from wood-burning stoves and fireplaces contain a mixture of harmful gases and small particles.

“So those particular kids also suffer from very similar symptoms as if they’re being exposed to secondhand smoke as well too, right, because it’s just any sort of smoke inhalation. But, it’s a different problem because they need the heat because the cold also causes other issues as well too so they’re actually in an interesting predicament. Because they’re trying to warm themselves up, warm the family up, warm the house up, but at the same time they’re being exposed to all the smoke that’s actually in the house, the soot that’s in the house as well.”

Breathing these small particles can cause asthma attacks and severe bronchitis, aggravate heart and lung disease, and may increase the likelihood of respiratory illnesses. Dr. Moua says his pediatric patients exposed to smoke tend to have the hardest times getting better.

“So, I basically take care of a spectrum of kids and the kids that I tend to see that do the worse are generally the ones that are consistently exposed to secondhand smoke. And I say that they consistently do the worst–number one they usually have a lot of exacerbation’s meaning they will get better with treatments and then they’ll get sick again within the next few months, they’ll get better treatments and then they’ll get sick again within the next few months. And so, their symptoms never appear to be well controlled for asthmatics.”

Approximately two and a half million people have died from secondhand smoke illnesses since the 1960’s. Dr. Moua says while medications can provide temporary relief, avoiding smoke all together is the best medicine.

“I would say to most families, if you need a reason to stop smoking, look at your kid–that’s the best reason you could stop smoking.”

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