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Secondhand Smoke Exposure in Children


Secondhand smoke exposure

Secondhand smoke exposure occurs when someone breathes in smoke or vapor. The smoke or vapor may come directly from a lit cigarette, e-cigarette, cigar, or pipe. It can also be exhaled by someone who is smoking. Particles in smoke and vapor can be found in the air and in dust. The particles can linger on household surfaces, such as counters, carpets, or walls. They also linger on clothes and skin and inside your car. They can stay in your home for weeks or even months after smoking has occurred.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your child has shortness of breath.

Call your child's doctor if:

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

Risks of secondhand smoke exposure in children:

Secondhand smoke contains chemicals that can increase your child's risk for serious health conditions:

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

Prevent secondhand smoke exposure:

  • Quit smoking. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause lung damage. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
  • 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 secondhand smoke if you only smoke in 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. Teach your child to avoid secondhand smoke.

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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.

Learn more about Secondhand Smoke Exposure in Children (Ambulatory Care)

Associated drugs

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.