Smoking in the presence of the kids a thing of the past? You would think so, but it still happens regularly that children are exposed to cigarette smoke.

What is secondhand smoke?

Passive smoking refers to the inhalation of tobacco smoke by non-smokers. This especially happens if there is smoking in the immediate vicinity. The smoke inhaled can come from the cigarette or cigar itself, as well as from the exhaled air of smokers. As soon as children stay in a smoking area, they will also ingest smoke.

When the room is small, there is a lot of smoking and the ventilation is poor, a child will get the most smoke. One in three children under the age of four appears to be regularly exposed to smoke. For children under the age of one, this is even more than half. One in five parents smoke while feeding infants and ten percent smoke in the car.

The unborn child also smokes passively during pregnancy, not only when the mother smokes, but also when she is often in smoking areas. Twenty percent of women smoke during pregnancy. Some children are not visibly bothered by the smoke at the moment, but show adverse effects later or on examination. In short, children can bear the consequences of secondhand smoke throughout their lives, without having had the choice whether or not to smoke.

Why is it harmful?

Smoke contains harmful substances such as nicotine and carbon monoxide. These substances cause damage to your child's organs. Smoke also suppresses the immune system, which is important in protecting your child against all kinds of infections. Small children are especially vulnerable to the consequences of second-hand smoke, because their organs and especially the airways are still developing.

What are the harmful consequences?

Secondhand smoke by children can have various harmful consequences. Effects can be classified into three categories: acute effects, which last as long as exposure to smoke, late effects, which manifest later and may be permanent, and associations, where there are links between passive smoking and health, but of which it is not yet clear exactly how this works.

Short-term (acute) effects: Sometimes it is clearly visible that children are bothered by the smoke. They have teary eyes or a snotty nose, they are short of breath or start to cough.

Late effects: Children born to mothers who smoke during pregnancy have a lower birth weight, smaller skull circumference and often smaller lungs and airways. The risk of miscarriage and complications during childbirth is also increased.

In addition, there is a higher risk of (a serious course of) infections, both with regard to respiratory infections and other infections (such as meningococcal disease). Acute or chronic infections of the middle ear occur in one in two to five children who passively smoke. This may require the insertion of eardrum tubes.

Passive smoking has a bad effect on breathing in various ways. Children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy may experience shortness of breath and wheezing.

Children with asthma who passive smoke are much more affected by their asthma. They have more asthma attacks and these asthma attacks are often more severe. As a result, they need more medication and have to be hospitalized more often. Passive smoking has no influence on the development of asthma.

The lung function of passive smoking children is worse and shows, in particular, a reduced airway patency.

General advice and precautions
Even if you don't smoke yourself, it can be quite difficult to ask family or other visitors not to smoke in your home. Below are a number of tips on how to approach this:

  • Limit your nicotine intake. For sure it's not an easy task but switch to e-liquids at-least if you are already addicted.
  • Inform guests in advance of the smoking rules in the house.
  • Also do this during your pregnancy.
  • Be consistent and explain the importance of not smoking.
  • Get ashtrays out of the house.
  • Find a babysitter who also doesn't smoke, or knows that smoking is not possible around children.
  • Most nurseries are non-smoking. To be sure, inquire about this when you are going to register your child at a daycare center or, for example, a host parent family.
Author's Bio: 

Misty Jhones