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Environmental smoke causes the same serious conditions as active smoking.Cancer of the lung is by far the greatest risk that passive smokers face, as well as coronary heart disease and reduced lung function.Women and children may face the greatest risk from second-hand smoke, and the poorest are most affected.
Severe infections - Serious illness - the child may become physically weak or perhaps fall behind socially or at school - Coughing - disruptive for household members - Need for hospital treatment - frightening for child and parent and may disrupt household and the child’s development - May be life-threatening.
There are many options for reducing smoke exposure.
Adult non-smokers are at risk from ETS, whether they work alongside smokers who are permitted to smoke in the workplace, live with a smoker, or go to social environments, such as pubs and restaurants.
The harm done to adults by ETS can be chronic if smokers make no effort to smoke outside or reduce the amount of ETS their non-smoker partner or family member inhales.
Coughs and colds - Colds: adults may need time off work if the child is very ill or others become infected- Coughs: a child with a bad cough can stop everyone sleeping, disrupting work and school.
Middle ear infections - ‘glue ear’ or otitis media - Pain: the child may become irritable and difficult to soothe- Poor hearing: a temporarily partially deaf child may not hear instructions and seem difficult- Longer-term hearing loss - children with poor hearing tend to develop more slowly and fall behind at school, or may have behaviour problems- Need for operation - surgery can be frightening for child and parent and disruptive to the family.
This ‘side-stream’ smoke contains higher levels of many carcinogens - carbon monoxide, nicotine and ammonia - than ‘main-stream’ smoke.
Main-stream smoke is smoke that smokers have inhaled into their lungs and then exhaled into the atmosphere.
There is a unique risk to community-based health workers who are caring for smokers in their homes or in community contexts.
At a recent RCN congress the issue of whether patients who smoke in their homes before or during visits could harm district nurses was raised.