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Secondhand Smoke Exposure In Children


Secondhand smoke exposure is when someone breathes in secondhand smoke (SHS). SHS comes from the end of a lit cigarette, cigar, or pipe. SHS is also the smoke that is exhaled by someone who smokes a cigarette, cigar, or pipe.


Follow up with your child's primary healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them in your follow-up visits.

Risks of secondhand smoke exposure in children:

SHS contains thousands of chemicals. Any exposure to these chemicals has risks. Risks for children include:

  • Asthma: Your child may be at greater risk of developing asthma. If your child has asthma, his attacks may be worse. They also may occur more often.
  • Lung problems: Your child's lungs may not grow normally. Your child may have wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath. Your child also may have lung infections, such as bronchitis. These problems can lead to other lung problems when your child is an adult.
  • Ear infections: Your child may have more ear infections. He also may have fluid in his ears more often.
  • SIDS: Your infant is at greater risk of SIDS. This is when an infant suddenly dies for no known reason during his first year of life.
  • Cancer: Your child is at greater risk of lung cancer and certain childhood cancers, such as leukemia. He is also at greater risk of having cancer as an adult.

Prevent secondhand smoke exposure:

  • Quit smoking: It is never too late to quit. This is the best way to protect your child from SHS. Ask your primary healthcare provider for information if you need help quitting.
  • Do not smoke near your child: Do not smoke anywhere near your child. This includes your home or car. Your child is not protected from SHS if you smoke in just 1 room. He is also not protected if you smoke inside your house or car with the windows open. Do not allow family and friends to smoke near your child.
  • Do not allow your child to be in places that allow smoking: This includes restaurants and day care centers. Teach your child to avoid SHS.

For support and more information:

  • American Lung Association
    1301 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
    Washington , DC 20004
    Phone: 1- 202 - 785-3355
    Phone: 1- 800 - 548-8252
    Web Address:
    Phone: 1- 800 - 784-8669
    Web Address:

Contact your child's primary healthcare provider if:

  • Your child is coughing, wheezing, or sneezing more than normal.
  • Your child has asthma and his symptoms have gotten worse.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • Your child has shortness of breath.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.