Secondhand and parental smoking: Saving the kids and the unborn.

Introduction

Most people who are not active smoker,s but resides with a smoker, will end up having almost equal risks as the active smoker. Secondhand smoking is explained in simple terms as the inhalation of the smoke from a burning end of a cigarette, and/or the smoke expelled by someone who is actively smoking. About 14 million American kids are subjected to secondhand smoking, many of whom are aged 3-11 years. Before now, many people believed that the harms that come with smoking were limited to the smoker, but recent studies have been able to unravel that most the toxic substances inhaled by the active smoker, are also inhaled by the surrounding persons.

Your smoke, your kid

Maternal smoking is one of the leading causes of prematurity, according to Center for Disease Control (CDC), smoking during pregnancy causes the death of over 1000 infants per year. Outside these deaths, smoking has shown to increase the risk of your child acquiring serious damages to the lungs and brain tissues. It triggers the cascade that is associated with impaired lung function, and upper and lower respiratory tract infection with other lung diseases like: asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis etc. It is also indicated as a serious cause of middle ear infection (Otitis media), an ailment very common in children.

In unborn infants, and children below the age of one, parental smoking is a major concern for the health of the child, who is unnecessary exposed to the threat of Sudden Infant Death (SID), an unexpected death in a supposedly healthy child who is below the age of one. There is also a study associating maternal smoking to low birth weight and cleft lips of the new born.

Nicotine, a major component of cigarettes, is highly addictive, hence, children and unborn infants who get subjected to secondhand smoking, are both psychologically and physiology more liable to engage in smoking later in life. These children who may have survived the detrimental impact of secondhand smoking in infancy, may grow to become firsthand smokers, further becoming vulnerable to the life threatening toxins.

How do we save the child!

Fetal tissues are very sensitive, and can be easily compromised by any exposure to toxins. Therefore, to preserve these vulnerable ones, the most reliable approach in tackling this challenge is avoiding the contamination ab initio. This approach must be individualized, and can only be achieved when the child’s parents or the guardian are fully aware of the dangers of their action or inaction. For this reason, educating adults on the need for a collective effort to save these children is paramount. Consequently, parents and children caregivers are expected to observe these safety guidelines:

  • Parents should avoid smoking in the presence of their child.
  • Pregnant mothers should be adequately educated on the adverse impact smoking has on their unborn kids, and those who are chronic smokers should be monitored properly.
  • Parents who are addicted to smoking, can totally halt smoking by getting help from health facilities.
  • Parents and children caregivers should ensure that smoking is not allowed in the vicinity of the child’s daycare and schools.

Summary

All hands must be on deck to reduce child fatality, as there are about twice as more children exposed to secondhand smoking than adults. Having established that secondhand smoking confers almost equal harm as active smoking on these children, with proactive action and proper education, and monitoring of parents and caregivers, these intrauterine and neonatal injuries can be totally avoided.

 

Onyeka, N. Victor

Clinical Medical Student,

Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Nigeria

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