Second-hand tobacco smoke increases risk for childhood pneumonia

Indoor air pollution increases the risk for childhood pneumonia. Smoke coming out of cook stoves and second-hand or third-hand smoke that is a direct result of family members smoking tobacco within households also scales up the risk for childhood pneumonia. Since pneumonia adversely affects the lungs, indoor air pollution and inhaling tobacco smoke or smoke coming out of cook stoves puts children at risk of pneumonia.

“In villages people cook their food by burning wood as cooking gas is usually not available in remote areas of rural India. Also dust within the house or animal furs at times also puts children at risk of infections. We should keep our houses clean and dust-free, reduce indoor air pollution and refrain from smoking tobacco especially within the house to protect the child from respiratory infections such as pneumonia” said Dr Abhishek Verma, senior Paediatrician, Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital in Gomti Nagar, Lucknow. Dr Verma adds: “Smoking cigarettes or ‘beedi’ or other smoking forms of tobacco increases the risk of pneumonia and other conditions such as asthma. Indoor air pollution can also be reduced by cooking food using cooking gas stoves instead of burning wood for example, or keeping the child away from smoke-filled areas. We should sweep our floors to reduce dust in the indoor air. Also protecting your child from fur of pet animals is advisable. Using mosquito nets is also strongly recommended to keep one’s child and family healthy.”

“We should not expose young children to smoke coming out of cook stoves or tobacco smoke. Smoke fills up the lungs of the child and makes her or him very vulnerable to a range of infections such as pneumonia. It is advisable that we should move the children away when cleaning the house so that they don’t get exposed to dust. Also floor of our houses should be sweeped with water mixed with phenyl or ‘neem’ leaves” said Dr Rama Shankhdhar, senior Gynaecologist and Obstetrician in Indira Nagar, Lucknow.

Agrees Dr RS Dubey, Chief Medical Superintendent (CMS) of Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital in Gomti Nagar, Lucknow: “second hand tobacco smoke has a definite adverse impact on one’s health, and the harm is more pronounced in children. Children who are exposed to tobacco smoke passively inhale the tobacco smoke in and this is clearly not good for their health.”

Due to exposure to indoor air pollution, daughter, Tulsi, of a slum resident Rekha developed pneumonia. Rekha, mother, wasn’t even aware that smoke of cook stoves can increase the risk of pneumonia for her daughter. She holds her child in her arms while cooking food on the stove. Her husband also smokes ‘bidi’ within the house or in close proximity of the child the adverse health effect of which is evident with the child developing pneumonia. The treating doctors haven’t advised yet to keep their child away from tobacco smoke or smoke coming out of cook stoves.

Despite pneumonia is preventable and curable still it continues to remain the single largest cause of under-5 years of age child mortality. To protect one’s child from pneumonia and other lung or respiratory tract infections it is vital that we keep our homes clean of indoor air pollution caused by tobacco smoking or cook stoves or other factors.

Nadeem Salmani – CNS
(Translation: Bobby Ramakant – CNS)