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Smoking and asthma

Things that make your allergies or asthma worse are called triggers. Smoking is a trigger for many people who have asthma.

You do not have to be a smoker for smoking to cause harm. Exposure to someone else's smoking (called secondhand smoke) is a trigger for asthma attacks in children and adults.

Smoking can weaken lung function. When you have asthma and you smoke, your lungs will weaken more rapidly. Smoking around children with asthma will weaken their lung function, too.

If You Smoke

If you smoke, ask your health care provider or nurse to help you quit. There are many ways to quit smoking. List the reasons why you want to quit. Then set a quit date. Many people need to try quitting more than once. Keep trying if you do not succeed at first.

Ask your provider about:

Secondhand Smoke and Children

Children who are around others who smoke are much more likely to:

  • Need emergency room care more often
  • Miss school more often
  • Have asthma that is harder to control
  • Have more colds
  • Begin smoking themselves

No one should smoke in your house. This includes you and your visitors.

Smokers should smoke outside and wear a coat. The coat will keep smoke particles from sticking to their clothes. They should leave the coat outside or put it somewhere away from a child with asthma.

Ask people who work at your child's daycare, school, and anyone else who takes care of your child if they smoke. If they do, make sure they smoke away from your child.

Stay away from restaurants and bars that allow smoking. Or ask for a table as far away from smokers as possible.

When you travel, do not stay in rooms that allow smoking.

Secondhand Smoke and Adults

Secondhand smoke will also cause more asthma attacks and make allergies worse in adults.

If there are smokers at your workplace, ask someone about policies regarding if and where smoking is allowed. To help with secondhand smoke at work:

  • Make sure there are proper containers for smokers to throw away their cigarette butts and matches.
  • Ask coworkers who smoke to keep their coats away from work areas.
  • Use a fan and keep windows open, if possible.

References

Balmes JR, Eisner MD. Indoor and outdoor air pollution. In: Broaddus VC, Mason RJ, Ernst JD, et al, eds. Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 74.

Durrani SR, Busse WW. Management of asthma in adolescents and adults. In: Adkinson NF Jr, Bochner BS, Burks AW, et al, eds. Middleton's Allergy Principles and Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 55.

Polosa R, Thomson NC. Smoking and asthma: dangerous liaisons. Eur Respir J. 2013;41(3):716-726. PMID: 22903959 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22903959.

Review Date 2/6/2016

Updated by: Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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