Everyone knows that smoking is harmful to your health, and most people also understand that secondhand smoke harms others. There are so many ways in which cigarette smoke can be harmful, but yet one more has been uncovered by researchers. Several studies have shown that secondhand smoke exposure can increase a child’s risk of developing allergies and asthma, and a few now show that this exposure can even increase the risk of food allergies.
Children and Secondhand Smoke
A lot of research has been done to answer the question of how smoke affects children, and there is a clear connection between secondhand smoke exposure and asthma and other allergies. There are more than 4,000 chemicals in secondhand smoke, with traces of toxins like arsenic and cyanide. It’s no surprise that exposure is harmful to children. For instance, children with smokers in the home get sick more often, have less developed lungs, get bronchitis and pneumonia more often and get worse asthma attacks more often. Over 40 percent of children who end up in the emergency room for asthma attacks have parents who smoke.
Secondhand Smoke Exposure and Food Allergen Sensitization
It’s not just lungs, illness and asthma that are affected by secondhand smoke exposure. Children who live around smokers are also at risk for developing food allergies. One study looked at more than 3,000 children and evaluated them from the time they were born until they were 16 years old. The researchers measured food allergen sensitization in the children and found that those who were regularly exposed to secondhand smoke as infants experienced more sensitization than those who were not, even into their teenage years.
Food allergen sensitization is not the same thing as a food allergy, but it is closely related. Sensitization refers to an immune response as a reaction to an allergen. It is a major risk factor for a food allergy. A child who is sensitive to an allergen is much more likely to develop an allergy than a child who does not exhibit the sensitization. The results of the study showed a clear link between postnatal secondhand smoke exposure and an increased risk of having a food allergy.
The above study was one of the largest of its kind and shows an overwhelming connection between secondhand smoke and food allergies. Another study found the same result, but they also found that the allergens to which children became sensitized were most likely to be those foods they came into contact with regularly. A third study reviewed all the research done on the subject and came to the same conclusion: secondhand smoke exposure in young children increases the risk of developing a food allergy.
Protecting Your Child From Secondhand Smoke
There are so many reasons to protect your child from exposure to secondhand cigarette smoke, and this connection to food allergies is just one more. The best thing you can do to protect your child is to completely ban smoking from your home. Most children who are exposed have someone in the household who smokes. If you are the smoker, you can quit. Doing so will do wonders for your health and the health of your child.
Quitting smoking isn’t easy, but once you have done it you won’t regret it. You can find smoking cessation programs to help get you started. Contact your doctor, a local clinic or a community center to find programs, many for free, that will help you learn how to quit. Your doctor may even be able to recommend or prescribe cessation aids to give you a better chance of success.