The Risk of Second Hand Smoke to Allergies
For those suffering from allergies, the related symptoms can make new environments and everyday activities more difficult to tolerate than it would for the average person. For an allergy condition, it is important to avoid the triggers that set off an allergy attack. But some factors, such as residual second hand smoke, are harder to avoid and can greatly contribute to allergy problems, or even make the symptoms worse.
The Effects of Second Hand Smoke
According to the American Cancer Society, secondhand smoke is the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States. On average, it kills thirty-eight thousand to sixty-five thousand a year. The Environmental Protection Group (EPG) has classified second hand smoke as a Group A Carcinogen, which is an agent that is known to cause cancer in people. Due to the chemicals found in second hand smoke, pre-existing problems such as allergies, asthma, bronchitis, and other respiratory diseases and heart disease are affected by second hand smoke.
A Big Risk to Children
While the effects of second hand smoke pose a big risk to adults, the dangers it presents to children are even greater. Research has shown a correlation between second hand smoke and low levels of interlukin-10 (an anti-inflammation protein which helps to protect against asthma and allergies) in infants. Other studies have found that four year olds that had been exposed to the second hand smoke during the early stages of infancy were at a higher risk of allergies to inside allergens such as dust mites and animal dander (skin flakes), and were also at a higher risk for having food-based allergies. Researchers have also found that second hand smoke can trigger an inflammation in the lining of a child's airways, which may make them susceptible to allergy-triggering substances.
Avoiding Second Hand Smoke
The simplest way to avoid the effects of second hand smoke is to stay out of situations that heavy smoking will be present. Since there are situations that cannot be avoided, such as going to some restaurants or at the workplace, it is important to be proactive and take steps for self-protection. For someone with allergies, the following steps can help to limit second hand smoke:
- Do not allow smoking inside the home. If someone needs to smoke, have them go outside. Do not rely on vents or air filters to remove all of the second hand smoke.
- Do not allow smoking in the car. If necessary, pull over at a rest stop to allow them to take a break.
- There are several businesses that do not allow smoking, and new laws are being passed around the world that removes indoor smoking. Patronize businesses that support these rules.
No matter the type of allergen, it is important for allergy sufferers to recognize and remove themselves from any situation that runs the risk of triggering an allergy attack. While second hand smoke can make breathing difficult, there are ways to make sure that the risk of exposure can be minimal.
Photo Credit: Dr. Jaus