Passive smoking, also known as secondhand smoke is a well-known risk factor of heart disease. Secondhand smoke is the smoke exhaled and then exhaled by a smoker and from a lit cigarette, which contains numerous chemicals that increase the risk of various health complications.
Dr Amar Singhal, HOD, Cardiology, Delhi based Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute says, ‘Heart and blood vessels are more prone to damage with any type of smoking, whether it’s direct or second hand. Apart from heart diseases, children who are exposed to second-hand smoke are more susceptible to develop various health problems. In addition to suffering from health complications, kids exposed to secondhand smoke show aggressive behavior and display antisocial activity.’ As heart disease is not the only health problem of passive smoking seen in children, it’s time to check other conditions caused by secondhand smoke.
Health problems seen in kids due to passive smoking
Most of us are unaware of the fact that secondhand smoke is comparatively more dangerous to health than active smoking. According to research studies, more than 40% children are exposed to passive smoking. Our expert Dr Amar Singhal sheds light on some of the common health complications that are observed in kids exposed to passive smoking.
Respiratory illness: Children exposed to second-hand smoke experience a wide range of upper and lower respiratory illnesses. The commonly observed symptoms of lung disorders are cold and flu, cough, phlegm, breathlessness, wheezing and pneumonia. Also, the prevalence of asthma is high among children living in households with smokers and the risk increases with the number of smokers living in the home.
Meningitis and meningococcal disease: Apart from causing lung complications, passive smoking is known to decrease immunity and increase susceptibility of brain inflammation in kids. Children from households that have smokers are at an increased risk of bacterial meningitis, a bacterial infection affecting the meninges (tissue covering of the brain). In the same vein, invasive meningococcal disease is an important cause of brain disease and death in children as well as young adults.
Tooth decay: According to a study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) exposure to secondhand smoke increases the risk of tooth decay in children. Although the exact relation between passive smoking and its effect on the oral cavity of a child is still not clear, but kids who still have their primary ‘baby’ teeth are known be more susceptible than their older counterparts.
Middle ear disease: Exposure to second-hand smoke causes middle ear disease including acute and recurrent otitis media (inflammation and infection in the middle ear) and chronic middle ear effusion (‘glue ear’). Episodes of glue ear in early life are associated with hearing loss, problems with speech and developmental problems.
Behavioral disorders: Since the brain of a child is still in its developmental stage, exposure to secondhand smoke causes long-term effects on their physical as well as mental well being. In most cases, passive smoking puts children at an increases risk of suffering from learning disabilities, behavioural problems, hyperactivity and attention deficit disorders. Also, the chance of the kid turning into an active smoker later in the life is found to be high.
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