July 10, 2009

Keep Your Child Away From Smoke To Help Control Asthma

Exposure to smoke can worsen your child's asthma and should be eliminated to help effectively manage his symptoms, said a pediatric pulmonologist at Baylor College of Medicine (www.bcm.edu).

"Sometimes treating a child's asthma means treating the parent's tobacco addiction," said Dr. Harold Farber, associate professor of pediatrics - pulmonary at BCM and associate medical director of the Texas Children's Health Plan (http://www.texaschildrenshealthplan.org) at Texas Children's Hospital (http://texaschildrens.org). "Cigarette smoke "“ in first-, second- and third-hand forms "“ poses a serious threat to your child's asthma. It's the first thing we look at when starting a management program for controlling asthma."

When children with asthma are exposed to smoke, medications don't work as well and flare-ups or attacks can be more severe, Farber said.  "The most important thing that a parent who smokes can do for their child with asthma is to get treatment for their own tobacco addiction," he said.

Asthma, a chronic condition of the respiratory system, occurs when inflammation of the breathing tubes in the lungs irritates the muscle surrounding them.

Many things can stimulate that inflammation, including strong chemicals, infections (colds, viruses) and allergens (animals, dust, pollens, mold) and most seriously, smoke exposure.  

"Our best medications are inhaled steroids that go down the breathing tube and tell the breathing tubes to "Ëœchill out, act like you don't have asthma,'" said Farber. "Smoking irritates the breathing tubes and reduces the benefit of this important asthma control medicine."  

The tightness of the breathing tubes in the lungs causes symptoms including coughing, chest tightness and difficulty breathing and wheezing.

"When these symptoms worsen, it can result in attacks or flare-ups," said Farber. "Sometimes asthma can be mild, sometimes life threatening."  

But asthma can be controlled, and patients should expect nothing less, Farber said. "It's important for your doctor to give you a written asthma plan that tells you what to do to stay well and how to recognize a problem and use treatment."

It's critical for patients to know the role of their treatment, Farber said. There are two types of medicines "“ controllers and relievers, he explained.

"We have medication that can act quickly to relieve symptoms but do nothing to prevent asthma attacks. Medicines that can make the breathing tubes less sensitive to flare-ups do not relieve symptoms," Farber said.

If your child has asthma and you are a smoker, Farber said it's critical for the child that the parents get their tobacco dependence treated.

"When you smoke, whether it's indoors or out, your child is exposed to the irritant," said Farber.

Tobacco addiction is a chronic disease, Farber said, and there are effective medications to treat it.

He encouraged smokers to talk to their doctor and to call the free national smoker's help line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) (http://1800quitnow.cancer.gov/) for assistance to become smoke free.


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