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In-Home Air Filter May Reduce Asthma Flare-ups in Children of Smokers

By HERWriter
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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. One-third received the two cleaners as well as instruction from a nurse about the dangers of second-hand smoke. The final group did not receive cleaners or instruction during the study, although they were given air cleaners after the study was complete.

Researchers measured particulates (small particles of smoke, dust and other substances) in the air as well as the levels of nicotine in the homes before and after the six month study. They also tracked each child’s asthma symptoms and measured the amount of a biological marker for nicotine that is present in urine after exposure to nicotine. The study showed that the homes with air cleaners had almost a 50 percent drop in the number of particulates. This was a significant improvement over the homes with no air cleaners, although air quality never reached the quality found in smoke-free homes. Instruction from the nurse about the dangers of smoking did not yield any improvement in air quality.

Researchers also noted that the air cleaners did not have any effect on nicotine levels, which were similar in all the children in the study. Children in homes with air cleaners reported significantly lower asthma symptoms including fewer days with coughing, wheezing or difficulty breathing compared with the children in homes without air filters. The researchers concluded that on average, children in homes with air filters could have up to 33 more symptom-free days a year. This is almost the same number of symptom-free days as another study showed could be achieved by using anti-inflammatory asthma drugs.

Cigarette smoke is recognized as a main cause of indoor air pollution. In multi-family buildings such as apartments, smoke can sometimes travel through air handlers from one unit to another. The researchers suggested that children with asthma living in a multi-family building could also benefit from air filters in the home even if no one living with the child is a smoker.

The researchers urged all parents and especially those with children who have asthma to prohibit smoking indoors. Air filters were recommended as a way to improve air quality during the time that smoking was being phased out in the home.

Science Daily
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America: Tobacco Smoke
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America: Asthma Overview


Reviewed August 4, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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