Cigarette smoke can cause breathing problems, whether you are the person smoking the cigarette (first-hand smoke) or just in the same room with someone who is smoking (second-hand smoke). Children who have asthma are at even higher risk of breathing problems if they are exposed to second-hand smoke. If children with asthma must be around a smoker or live with someone who smokes, a recent study shows that using an indoor air filter can help reduce asthma symptoms.
Asthma is a disease that makes breathing difficult. During an asthma attack or flare-up, the airways inside the lungs become inflamed and produce extra mucus which clogs the air passages. At the same time, the muscles around the airways constrict which makes the air passages smaller and allows less air to move in and out of the lungs.
In a similar way, cigarette smoke can make the airways in the lungs swell and fill with mucus. People with asthma who are exposed to cigarette smoke are more likely to have asthma flare-ups and may be more likely to cough, wheeze, or have difficulty breathing. Cigarette smoke, including second-hand smoke, can cause permanent damage to the lungs. This risk is even higher in children whose lungs are still growing and developing.
The best way to safeguard the health of children’s lungs is to keep them away from cigarette smoke. More than 30 percent of all children in the United States live with someone who smokes. For these children, research from Johns Hopkins Children’s Center suggests air cleaners in the home can help limit asthma flare-ups.
"Air cleaners appear to be a an excellent partial solution to improving air quality in homes of children living with a smoker but should not be viewed as a substitute for a smoke-free environment," said lead investigator Arlene Butz, Sc.D., M.S.N., C.P.N.P., an asthma specialist at Johns Hopkins Children's and professor of pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
The six month study tracked 115 children between the ages of 6 and 12 years. One or more caregiver in each home was a smoker. One-third of the homes received free-standing air cleaners for the living room and child’s bedroom.