Tobacco smoke tied to flu complications in kids

NEW YORK Fri Aug 31, 2012 4:40pm EDT

Cigarette butts in an ashtray in Los Angeles, California, May 31, 2012. REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn

Cigarette butts in an ashtray in Los Angeles, California, May 31, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Alcorn

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NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Kids hospitalized with the flu are more likely to need intensive care and a longer stay if they've been exposed to second-hand smoke at home, a small new study finds.

Analyzing the records of more than 100 kids hospitalized with flu in New York state, researchers found those exposed to second-hand smoke were five times more likely to be admitted to the intensive care unit and required a 70 percent longer stay in the hospital, compared to the kids not exposed to smoke.

"People are being a bit complacent and thinking that because they don't see smoking as often…that it's not a problem anymore," said Dr. Karen Wilson, of Children's Hospital Colorado, in Aurora, who led the study. "But we still need to be vigilant about protecting kids from second-hand smoke."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, passive smoking causes ear infection, breathing problems and lung infections in children, and leads to the hospitalization of up to 15,000 children under the age of 18 months every year.

The new work is the first study to look at the effect of second-hand smoke on kids with influenza, however.

Wilson and her team looked at hospital records for 117 kids admitted for influenza to a New York hospital between 2002 and 2009.

Second-hand smoke exposure was reported on the charts of 40 percent of the kids - slightly lower than the 53 percent national exposure rate for kids under 11 estimated by the CDC in 2008.

During the seven-year study, researchers found that overall, 18 percent of the flu-affected kids were admitted to intensive care, and six percent needed to be intubated with a breathing tube. On average, kids stayed in the hospital for two days.

When Wilson and her team compared the kids who had been exposed to second-hand smoke to those who weren't, they found that 30 percent of smoke-exposed kids needed intensive care versus 10 percent of unexposed kids. Intubation was required for 13 percent of smoke-exposed kids, compared to one percent of those from a smoke-free home.

Hospital stays were up to 70 percent longer for smoke-exposed kids, with kids staying in for four days on average, compared with 2.4 days in non-exposed kids. If kids had a chronic illness as well as the flu, their length of stay increased to about 10 days, on average, if they had been breathing second-hand smoke, versus about three days in non-exposed sick kids.

"We've known that (second-hand smoke) is bad for children in a whole variety of ways," said Dr. Susan Coffin, who has studied flu complications in children at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "With this (study) we see that smoke exposure not only increases risk of hospitalization but it specifically makes the course of illness worse."

The small study, published in The Journal of Pediatrics, does have limitations. The authors note in their report, for instance, that children with severe illnesses may have been screened more frequently for smoke exposure, leading to an underestimate of how many kids were exposed to smoke.

Still, the findings do point to a need for better screening when kids with the flu are seen in the ER, researchers said.

"If you have a child who comes into the hospital and they are exposed to tobacco smoke, they have more risk of going on to develop more severe illness," Wilson told Reuters Health. Knowing that kids are at increased risk could help physicians make better treatment decisions, she added.

For Wilson, it's critical that children don't end up in the ER in the first place.

"This is a preventable cause of severe flu, and it's sad that children are in a position to be exposed even though these serious complications can occur," said Wilson.

"Obviously not smoking and protecting children from smoke won't stop them from getting influenza, but it may help it from becoming a severe illness or (preventing) complications that we sometimes see," she added.

SOURCE: The Journal of Pediatrics, online August 6, 2012.

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Comments (7)
KevinMM wrote:
Mein Kampf mentioned “protecting the children” as a form of lobbying that no one could possibly deny. The use of children in this context is almost as revealing as the long biased history of the author. This woman should be ashamed of this example of irresponsible fear mongering and hatred. Too what end? The fact it is presented to the media, prior to the medical journals and the peer review. Which judging by her meager description, would expose it as advertising; for smoking patches [with a success rate below that of a placebo], or child-friendly flavored nicotine chewing gum, much more than anything [by any stretch] that could be described as scientific research. It is too bad the news services don’t separate advertising from legitimate news articles, with disclaimers as a mandatory inclusion, as an effort to improve their credibility and be seen as more than the sum of what is purchased.

Aug 31, 2012 9:27pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
smartin1955 wrote:
“Wilson and her team looked at hospital records for 117 kids admitted for influenza to a New York hospital between 2002 and 2009.”

Reuters considers this a story???? Reuters considers this a “study”???

Reuters should file papers with the Sec of State as a pro ban lobbying group!

Sep 01, 2012 8:46am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Medical Uses of Tobacco Past and Present


“Tobacco as a Prophylactic in Contagious Disease.
Allen (1835) stated that Diemerbroeck [De peste, 1646] has usually been quoted as authority for the anticontagious character of tobacco.

During the Great Plague in London in 1665, children were told to smoke in their school- rooms (Lancet 1: 1266-1267, 1902); and A Brief Abstract of the Virtues of the American Tobacco Plant (1783) records that buffers of the dead, in charge of dead-carts, at first used tobacco as a deodorizer, “little thinking that what they used for momentary relief would prove a constant preventive.

When the Plague was happily stayed, the virtues of tobacco began to be investigated, and it was found that those persons who plentifully used it, either in smoking or in snuffing, had most wonderfully escaped the dire contagion: for though they’ visited the chambers of the sick, attended the funerals of cartloads at a time, they unexpectedly avoided the infection.”

Although Allen in 1835 declared that this idea that tobacco operated as an antidote to contagious and infectious diseases was gratuitous and fallacious, the belief continued to play a role in public health for some time. It was reported in The Lancet (1: 201, 1882) that smallpox having appeared in the Bolton Workhouse, the Guardians resolved to issue tobacco freely to the inmates in order that the wards may be disinfected by the fumes. And, in another note in The Lancet (1 : 406, 1913) of a later date: “A good many years ago it was reported by the senior medical officer of Greenwich Workhouse that the tobacco smoking inmates enjoyed comparative immunity from epidemics, and tobacco-smoking was believed to have had the disinfectant action in cases of cholera and other infectious diseases. Again during a cholera epidemic at Hamburg it was reported that not a single workman engaged in the cigar factory in that city was attacked by the disease.

Later it was stated that amongst a body of 5000 cigar makers only 8 cases and 4 deaths from cholera occurred. Subsequently experiments proved that tobacco smoke destroyed the bacilli of Asiatic Cholera as well as pneumonia.” This note in the Lancet apparently referred to the work of Visalli (1855) who found that tobacco smoke was capable of inhibiting the growth of the bacillus of Asiatic cholera; and indeed, Visalli himself concluded that, since the portal of entry of this bacillus is the mouth, tobacco smoke should have prophylactic value. It is a fact that workmen in tobacco factories are often cited as being immune from cholera and other epidemics.”

Sep 01, 2012 8:53am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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