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Secondhand Smoke Leaves Kids Prone to Severe Infections
Date:5/28/2008

And those infections force many children to be hospitalized, study finds

WEDNESDAY, May 28 (HealthDay News) -- Here's another reason why adults shouldn't smoke around kids:

In addition to developing asthma and respiratory infections, children in households where someone smokes are more likely to catch a whole range of severe infections, including meningococcal disease. Many even have to be hospitalized, a new study found.

Being around smoke during the first few months of life was most dangerous, especially if the newborn was born underweight or premature.

"This is just adding to the list of why people should not be smoking," said Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "It's probably that smoking is not just a respiratory irritant, but many things in smoke affect the immune system."

The ill effects of secondhand smoke on people of all ages is well known. As more bans are put in place, children -- and others -- are exposed less and less to secondhand smoke in public places. But secondhand smoke in the home is another matter, according to the study authors, from the University of Hong Kong, whose findings are published online May 28 in the journal Tobacco Control.

The researchers followed 7,402 children born in Hong Kong in April and May of 1997 (representing almost 80 percent of all children born in Hong Kong during that time period) until they turned 8 in 2005.

Exposure to secondhand smoke within a distance of three meters (9.8 feet) in early life was associated with a 14 percent increased risk of being hospitalized for infectious diseases up until the age of 8.

And exposure to secondhand smoke during a baby's first six months of life increased the likelihood of a hospitalization by 45 percent by the time the child was 8. Babies born prematurely were twice as likely to be hospitalized, while those born with a low birth weight
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