Tobacco Exposure In Utero Increases Chances of Severe Asthma

inhaler A study shows that moms who smoke while pregnant are increasing their baby’s risk of developing severe asthma. This doesn’t mean that all children who have severe asthma were exposed to tobacco while in the womb. Instead, it illustrates how big an effect tobacco smoke has on developing babies.

A study was done by the University of California in San Francisco. This study was designed to determine which instance of smoke exposure had the greatest consequence for the baby that got exposed to tobacco smoke. Was it before birth? Was it between birth and age two? Or, was it in the moment when a child is experiencing symptoms of asthma?

Asthma is a type of lung disease that can affect both children and adults. Kids with severe asthma often have to stay indoors on days when there is high humidity, or on days when there is a pollution advisory for the air where the child lives.

As you may be aware, typical symptoms of asthma include wheezing, breathlessness, coughing, and chest tightness. Kids with asthma often carry inhalers in order to alleviate their symptoms as soon as possible after they start. There is potential that an asthma attack will cause a child to be hospitalized, to miss school days, and to generate expensive medical bills.

The researchers that did the study found that only one of those three time frames actually had an impact on how severely a child would have asthma. Babies that were exposed to tobacco smoke from their mother’s while the baby was still in the womb had an increased risk of developing severe asthma. The kids in the study who had severe asthma were three times more likely to have been exposed to tobacco smoke in utero than were kids who had less severe forms of asthma.

There are both genetic and environmental factors that influence asthma. The study emphasizes how much of an impact tobacco smoke has on a developing baby. However, one cannot assume that all children who have severe asthma were necessarily exposed to tobacco smoke before they were born. You cannot reverse engineer the results that the researchers found and come up with a true statement.

Another study was done by a researcher named Dr. Sam Oh, who was in UCSF’s Center for Tobacco Research and Education. Dr. Oh found that mothers who had low levels of education, (those that did not complete high school), were more likely to smoke while pregnant than were mothers who completed high school or went on to complete higher forms of education.

Most people realize that those who did not complete high school are unlikely to find jobs that pay well. Therefore, we have a situation where moms who smoke while pregnant give birth to a child who has severe asthma. These moms do not have the types of jobs that allow them to take time off of work in order to care for a sick child.

Image by Christian Guthier on Flickr