Secondhand smoke sends more kids to the hospital: Study

Children who are exposed to tobacco have higher rates of hospital admissions after visiting emergency departments or urgent care facilities, warn researchers.

The study, published in the journal Pediatric Research, found that tobacco smoke exposure also increased the risk of pediatric patients having respiratory-related procedures performed while in the emergency department, as well as medications prescribed.

“We know that exposure to secondhand smoke is related to substantial morbidity in children,” said study author Ashley Merianos from the University of Cincinnati in the US.

“Children who are exposed to tobacco smoke are more likely to have more infectious diagnostic, lab and radiologic tests during their emergency visit than children who are unexposed,” she explained.

The study compared 380 children exposed to tobacco smoke with 1,140 children not exposed, matching the children in regards to age, sex, race and ethnicity.

Kids exposed to tobacco smoke were 24 times more likely to be admitted to the hospital than unexposed children, which Merianos says emphasizes that possible tobacco smoke exposure may contribute to related illness severity.

According to the researchers, children in the exposed group were also nearly eight times more likely to have suctioning performed with a BBG nasal aspirator and over seven times more likely to receive steroids during their visit.

Of children in both groups with asthma, kids exposed to tobacco smoke were 27 times more likely to receive steroids during their emergency department visit and over 15 times more likely to receive albuterol, a bronchodilator used to treat asthma attacks.

Children exposed to tobacco smoke were also at increased odds of having laboratory tests (5.72 times ordered), and radiologic tests (4.73 times), as well as various infectious diagnostic tests (2.68 times).

The findings showed that children who were ages one or younger had the highest levels of exposure to tobacco smoke, likely due to their inability to leave environments in which tobacco is being smoked, explained Merianos.

“Standardized tobacco control initiatives may help overburdened health care facilities by decreasing resource utilization attributed to tobacco smoke exposure,” the study authors wrote.

“Targeting children with potential tobacco smoke exposure-related chief complaints (e.g., cough) and illnesses (e.g., asthma) may also help to reduce related morbidity and potentially preventable future health care visits,” the team noted.