Will My Smoking Cigarettes Affect My Child Who Has Just Been Diagnosed With Asthma?

Yes, your smoking will affect your child with newly diagnosed asthma. Smoking should be categorically banned from any household in which a child has asthma of any severity. Your smoking affects your child in many different ways. Every child today knows that smoking is bad for you. Some are aware of the links between cigarette smoking and lung diseases such as emphysema.

Others know about links between smoking and lung and bladder cancers, as well as the fact that cigarette smoking causes heart disease and stroke. Your smoking adversely affects your health and decreases your life expectancy; both factors certainly impact your children. Children of parents who smoke are themselves more likely to become smokers in adolescence and beyond. Your smoking pro-vides a bad model for your child who is much more likely to do as you do rather than do as you say. Children raised in a home where adults smoke have an increased risk of developing asthma.

Your child has just been diagnosed with asthma. Look at it from your son or daughter’s perspective. Until the diagnosis was made and medicine prescribed, he or she was experiencing asthma symptoms. To get an idea of what that might be like, try a simple experiment.

Get a very narrow straw or plastic coffee stirrer and place it in your mouth. Breathe through the narrow straw (or plastic coffee stirrer) by pinching your nostrils together. Then, march briskly in place. You will become aware of a very uncomfortable sensation of breathing, and it will take a great deal of effort to keep marching in place. The breathing experiment you have just performed approximates how it might feel to breathe through constricted breathing passages.

Your child has been feeling poorly, has undergone a medical evaluation, and now has to take medicine and adapt to his or her new diagnosis. Depending on the child and his or her age, as well as the severity of the asthma, the entire family is entering a period of change and adaptation. As a parent, you may be experiencing increased stress. If you are a smoker, you may crave cigarettes more intensely than usual.

Cigarette smoking is a universal asthma trigger. Your continued smoking will contribute to increased symptoms in your child, along with an increased medication requirement. My advice: quit smoking, both for your health and that of your children. Parents who attempt to limit their smoking to the bathroom, garage, or basement are still smoking indoors where the smoke can be trapped and circulated back into the house.

Anywhere air can travel, smoke can travel too—and even limited exposure to secondhand smoke is too much for a child with asthma. Parents who smoke in the home are also sending their children the message that their smoking is more important to them than their children’s health; this message, unspoken though it may be, can undermine the child’s understanding of how important it is to take asthma symptoms seriously and may affect the child’s willingness to comply with his or her program of asthma treatment.