Why Smoking is Especially Bad if You or Your Family Have Asthma and/or Allergies

What Is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic disease that affects the airways of the lungs, which are tubes that carry air to your lungs.1 During an asthma attack, these airways become swollen, making it hard to breathe. As the walls of the airways swell, they narrow, and less air is passes in and out of the lungs. Cells in the airways can also make more mucus (a sticky, thick liquid) than usual, which can make breathing even harder.2 Asthma attacks can be mild, moderate, or serious—and even life-threatening.

Symptoms of an asthma attack include:

  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Tightness or pain in the chest

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What Are Allergies?

Allergies are one of the most common chronic diseases. A chronic disease lasts a long time or occurs often. An allergy occurs when the body’s immune system sees a substance as harmful and overreacts to it. The substances that cause allergic reactions are called allergens. When someone has allergies, their immune system makes an antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE). These antibodies respond to allergens. The physical symptoms that result are an allergic reaction.3

How Is Smoking Related to Asthma and/or Allergies?

Exposure to secondhand smoke can increase the risk of allergic complications such as sinusitis and bronchitis. Common symptoms of smoke irritation are burning or watery eyes, nasal congestion, coughing, hoarseness and shortness of breath presenting as a wheeze.4

Tobacco smoke is also one of the most common asthma triggers, putting the 1.6 million Floridians with asthma at risk for an attack.5,6 If you have asthma, an asthma attack can occur when something irritates your airways and “triggers” an attack. Your triggers might be different from other people’s triggers.7

Tobacco smoke—including secondhand smoke—is unhealthy for everyone, but especially people with asthma.8 Secondhand smoke is a mixture of gases and fine particles that includes:9

  • Smoke from a burning cigarette, cigar, or pipe
  • Smoke exhaled (breathed out) by someone who smokes

Secondhand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, including hundreds that are toxic and about 70 that can cause cancer.10

If you have asthma, it’s important that you avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.11 If you are among the 21.8 percent of adults in Florida who have asthma and smoke, the best thing you can do to help control asthma symptoms is to quit smoking.12

Children with asthma are particularly vulnerable to secondhand smoke exposure. Approximately one in 10 children in Florida have asthma, and studies show that asthma-effected children who are around secondhand smoke have more severe and frequent attacks.13,14

How Can Asthma Attacks Be Prevented?

Smokers with asthma have an increased risk of experiencing more severe symptoms like wheezing, breathlessness, chest-tightness and coughing.15,16

If you or a family member has asthma, you can manage it with the help of your health care provider (for example, by taking your medicines exactly as your doctor tells you) and by avoiding triggers. Staying far away from tobacco smoke is one important way to avoid asthma attacks.

Parents can protect their asthmatic children by taking steps to reduce overall secondhand smoke exposure. These steps include:

  • If you smoke, quit. Tobacco Free Florida’s FREE services can increase your chances of quitting, visit tobaccofreeflorida.com/howtoquit for more information.
  • Help children avoid secondhand smoke exposure indoors, in vehicles or in public areas where smoking is permitted.
  • Take caution outdoors, as there is evidence that the average levels of smoke found near someone smoking outdoors is similar to the levels of tobacco smoke found indoors.17

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References

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Asthma’s Impact on the Nation: Data From the CDC National Asthma Control Program
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.“Allergy Overview.” Allergies. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, Sept. 2015. Web. .
  3. “Cigarette Smoke.” National Institute of Health – U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Web. .
  4. Florida Department of Health, Division of Community Health Promotion, Bureau of Chronic Disease Prevention, Florida Asthma Program. Burden of Asthma in Florida, 2013.
  5. Health, National Center For Environmental. “Asthma’s Impact on the Nation Data from the CDC National Asthma Control Program.” (n.d.): n. pag.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Environmental Health Division of Environmental Hazards and Health Effects, 2010. Web. 10 Mar. 2016. .
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  7. Asthma: Common Asthma TriggersWeb. 20 Aug. 2012.
  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  9. Asthma: Common Asthma TriggersWeb. 20 Aug. 2012.
  10. National Toxicology Program. Report on Carcinogens, Twelfth Edition. Research Triangle Park (NC): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Toxicology Program, 2011.
  11. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease. A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2010.
  12. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  13. Asthma: Common Asthma TriggersWeb. 20 Aug. 2012.
  14. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  15. Asthma Stats: Percentage of People With Asthma Who Smoke. Web. 31 Jan. 2013.
  16. Forest, Jamie, and Julie Dudley. “The Burden of Asthma in Florida.” (2013): 19. Florida Department of Health. Bureau of Chronic Disease Prevention in the Division of Community Health Promotion, Sept. 2013. Web. 9 Mar. 2016. .
  17. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Coordinating Center for Health Promotion, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2006.
  18. “Learn How to Control Asthma.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 01 Feb. 2016. Web. 09 Mar. 2016. .
  19. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Coordinating Center for Health Promotion, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2006.
  20. Klepeis, NE, WR Ott, and P. Switzer. “Real-time Measurement of Outdoor Tobacco Smoke Particles.” US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. Journal of Air & Waste Management Association, May 2007. Web. 09 Mar. 2016. .