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Secondhand Smoking Tied to Children’s Hospitalizations for Asthma

Update Date: Jan 20, 2014 10:11 AM EST

Smoking and secondhand smoking have been tied to causing many deadly diseases, such as cancer and asthma. In a new study, researchers examined children's hospital re-admittance rates related to asthma cased by exposure to secondhand smoking. The researchers, from the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and Penn State Milton S. Hershey Children's Hospital, discovered that exposure to secondhand smoking in the car or home increases a child's risk of returning to the hospital to get asthma treatment.

The researchers recruited 619 children for their study, which was a part of the Greater Cincinnati Asthma Risks Study that examined the risks of hospital readmissions particularly for low-income and minority children. The researchers measured the amount of cotinine, which is a substance that the body makes when it breaks down nicotine, in the children's blood and saliva samples.

The researchers found that based on reports by the children's caregivers, there appeared to be no correlation between tobacco exposure and hospital readmission. However, when the researchers reviewed the scientific analysis, they concluded that secondhand smoking doubles a child's risk of being readmitted to the hospital for asthma within a year.

"The ability to measure serum and salivary cotinine levels presents the possibility of an objective measure that can be obtained when a child is seen in the emergency department or in the hospital and may be used to predict future hospitalizations," stated Robert Kahn, MD, MPH, associate director of general and community pediatrics at Cincinnati Children's and senior author of the study.

"Of the 619 children in the study, 76 percent were covered by Medicaid," added Judie Howrylak, MD, PhD, a physician at Hershey Children's and lead author of the study, reported by the press release. "Certainly there could be a financial incentive for insurance companies to help caregivers quit smoking, rather than pay the downstream costs of a future asthma readmission."

The study was published in Pediatrics.

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