Passive smoking, also known as secondhand smoke or environmental tobacco smoke, refers to the inhalation of tobacco smoke by nonsmokers who are exposed to the smoke generated by others who are smoking. This can occur in various settings, such as homes, workplaces, public areas, and vehicles, where tobacco products are smoked or used. Passive smoking is harmful to health because it exposes non-smokers, including children, to the same toxic chemicals and particles present in tobacco smoke that smokers inhale. Tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, including at least 69 known to cause cancer, as well as carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, and other toxic substances. One of the major effects of secondhand smoking can be seen in young children. It has been found that there is an increased risk of childhood asthma amongst the younger population due to passive smoking. Let us know more about the link between childhood asthma and smoking and how research by scientists like Dr. Amarjit Mishra can provide solutions for this challenge.
Passive Smoking and Risk of Childhood Asthma
When non-smokers, particularly children, are exposed to these toxic substances in secondhand smoke, it can have a wide range of adverse health effects. Passive smoking is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular problems, such as heart disease, stroke, and coronary artery disease, increased risk of certain cancers (such as lung, breast, and nasal sinus cancer), decreased lung function, ear infections, low birth weight, and developmental delays in children. Further, young children who are exposed to secondhand smoke are at an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), which is the sudden and unexplained death of an infant under one year of age. However, one of the most common problems found in children due to passive smoking is that of childhood asthma. Passive smoking is a known risk factor for respiratory problems, especially in children. It can cause or exacerbate asthma, leading to increased asthma symptoms, decreased lung function, and frequent asthma exacerbations. Passive smoking has also been linked to other respiratory conditions, such as chronic bronchitis and pneumonia.
Children who are exposed to tobacco smoke in their environment, such as in their homes or in public places, are at an increased risk of developing asthma or experiencing exacerbations of asthma symptoms if they already have the condition. Passive smoking can also have a harmful influence on children’s lung function. It can result in compromised lung function, decreased lung capacity, and decreased lung growth and development, all of which can contribute to the development and aggravation of asthma.
As per Dr. Amarjit Mishra Ex Assistant Professor, Auburn University, an expert in immunology in respiratory research, there are several ways in which passive smoking can be related to childhood asthma:
- Developing asthma: Passive smoking during pregnancy and early infancy has been linked to an increased chance of acquiring asthma in previously unaffected children. Tobacco smoke exposure during pregnancy can harm fetal lung development, making the kid more prone to asthma later in life. Furthermore, secondhand smoke exposure during early childhood, when the respiratory system is still developing, can increase the risk of developing asthma.
- Triggering asthma symptoms: In children with asthma, secondhand smoking can function as a trigger for asthma symptoms. Tobacco smoke contains hazardous chemicals and particles that irritate the airways, causing inflammation and increased bronchial reactivity, which can result in asthma symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, and trouble breathing.
- Increasing asthma severity: Children with asthma who are exposed to secondhand smoke may have more severe asthma symptoms and are more likely to have an asthma exacerbation. Passive smoking can impair asthma control, increase the frequency and severity of asthma episodes, and necessitate the use of additional asthma drugs, including emergency treatments such as bronchodilators and corticosteroids.
Research and Potential Treatments
Till now, researchers have pointed out that there is a definite correlation between young asthma and smoking. Children who are exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely to acquire asthma, and children who already have asthma are more likely to have severe symptoms and impaired lung function if exposed to smoke. However, more research is needed to establish this link and better understand the mechanisms underlying it and also to find potential therapeutic targets for the treatment of asthma. One field of study focuses on finding the precise compounds in tobacco smoke that cause asthma symptoms in children. Researchers like Amarjit Mishra and other professionals working in this field are trying to create tailored therapies to limit exposure and prevent asthma exacerbations. Another area of study can be the study of genetic and environmental variables that contribute to the development of asthma in children exposed to smoking.
Further, effective therapy plays a crucial role in managing childhood asthma and improving quality of life for children with asthma. Medications can serve as the cornerstone of asthma therapy. However, it is only through intensive research that better potential treatment options can be discovered for asthma. One of the most effective ways for providing treatment for asthma can be to target metabolic sensors. Dr. Amarjit Mishra, Auburn University has been working extensively to identify such therapeutic targets. Through their laboratory based research, Amarjit Mishra, Auburn University and his team has identified that glycolysis mediator biomolecules such as HIF1a and PKM2 govern dendritic cells and T-cell effector activity in type 2 high asthma while also affecting the neutrophil effector function in type 2 low asthma. As childhood asthma through passive smoking can be considered a form of allergic asthma, Amarjit Mishra has also identified that metabolic sensors such as AMPK, mTOR, and Sirt1 can be considered as potential targets for regulating the adaptive immune responses in such cases of asthma.
It is critical to recognise that there is no safe amount of secondhand smoke exposure, and even brief or infrequent exposure can be damaging to health, particularly in vulnerable groups including as children, pregnant women, older adults, and those with pre-existing health disorders. Aside from research, it is critical for people to create smoke-free environments and avoid secondhand smoke exposure in order to protect the health of nonsmokers, particularly children.
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