Allergy :: Tobacco smoke increases infants hay fever risk

Parents of kids who are not even a year old should think twice before lighting a cigarette in their house, as a recent study conducted by the University of Cincinnati (UC) epidemiologists reveals that it is environmental tobacco smoke and not the visible mold, which severely increases an infant?s risk of developing allergic rhinitis.

Allergic rhinitis most commonly known as hay fever, occurs when a person?s immune system wrongly reacts to allergens (aggravating particles) in the air. And when the body releases substances to defend itself, it causes the allergy sufferer to experience constant sneezing and, a blocked nose.

The study suggests that for the good health of their children, it?s essential for parents to eradicate tobacco from their homes.

An infant?s lungs and immune system are still developing in the first year of life, environmental tobacco smoke puts harmful particulates in the air Which, when inhaled regularly at such an early age – could lead to serious allergic conditions like asthma. Said Grace LeMasters, PhD, co-author and principal investigator of the Cincinnati Childhood Allergy and Air Pollution Study (CCAAPS).

The study assessed the effects of numerous indoor exposures to things such as environmental tobacco smoke, visible mold, pets, siblings and the day-care environment on 633 infants under age one.

We found that infants who were exposed to 20 or more cigarettes a day were three times more likely to develop allergic rhinitis by their first birthday than those who were not exposed, sais Biagini.

This is the first study to show a relationship between environmental tobacco smoke exposure and allergic rhinitis in year-old infants.

Previous studies have addressed risk factors for allergic rhinitis, but they failed to examine multiple environmental exposures, and some yielded contradictory results, said Jocelyn Biagini, lead author and an epidemiologist in UC?s environmental health department.

The study further revealed that household mold, which was always considered to be a major cause for rhinitis, did not contribute to allergic rhinitis development.

It did increase the infant?s risk for ear infections though, Biagini said.

Infants exposed to a mold patch about the size of a shoebox were five times more likely to contract ear infections requiring antibiotics than those living in mold-free homes, she added.

The UC study also suggests that infants with elder siblings are less susceptible to have allergic rhinitis.

Research has shown that exposure to certain infections early in life may decrease your risk for allergic diseases. We found a ?sibling protective effect? for allergic rhinitis – this may mean the more siblings infants have, the more infections they are exposed to. As a result, the infant?s body may be better equipped to fight off allergic diseases later in life, explained James Lockey, MD, professor of environmental health and pulmonary medicine.

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