The Effects of Smoking on Your Children

If you’re a smoker you probably know all about the negative effects smoking can have on your health, but did you know that you are also endangering the health of your children?

Respiratory Infections

I’m sure if you’re around kids often, you hear a lot of coughing, sneezing and wheezing.  Acute respiratory infections and are one of the most common infections in children.  According to a British Medical Bulletin, parental smoking increases the risk of all respiratory illnesses and symptoms.  This includes coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing as well as lower respiratory infections such as pneumonia and bronchitis. The negative effect of parental smoking is greater in infants than it is in older children. The increased risk of respiratory infections can be the result of smoking during pregnancy and/or smoking after the baby is born.  This finding is supported by research by Peat and colleagues that found that children who lived in homes with smokers had more childhood respiratory infections and hospitalizations for respiratory illnesses than children who lived in smoke free homes.

Ear Infections

A child that is regularly touching their ears may be a sign that they have an ear infection.  Otitis media (a middle ear infection) is a common infection, especially in young children with approximately 75% of children suffering from at least one ear infection during their childhood years. Middle ear infections happen when the Eustachian tubes become blocked with fluid.    Ear infections can result in ear pain and fevers and other more serious complications.  There are many factors that are associated with ear infections and one of the most preventable factors is exposure to parental smoking. One of the possible reasons that second-hand smoke may increase the risk of ear infections in children is because it interferes with the child’s ability to clear mucous normally. This results in a blockage of the Eustachian tubes. While ear infections are a common infection in children, and most clear up on their own or with antibiotic treatment, recurrent ear infections can lead to serious problems such as loss of hearing or the need for surgery.


A study by den Boon and colleagues published in Pediatrics, reported that if a child is living in a home with a person that has tuberculosis they are at an increased risk of contracting the infection if they are exposed to second-hand smoke.  While this finding may not be worrisome for people living in developed countries such as Canada and the US, it is a significant problem in developing countries where smoking and tuberculosis are both on the rise.  However, with the adoption rate of children from developing countries increasing in North America this could pose a problem to potential parents.

If you smoke, there are some things that you can do to protect your children.  The obvious and best choice is to quit.  However, for some people this may take time.  In the meantime try to cut back on the number of cigarettes you smoke.  These steps will also help you to permanently quit.  If you have difficulty with quitting, there are a number of resources to help you, speak to your doctor to learn more about different options that are available to you.

Along with numerous health conditions that you expose yourself to by smoking, if you have kids, you are also exposing them to an increased risk of childhood infections.  As a parent, be inspired to quit smoking to protect the health of your children!

Related Reading: 10 Best tips to quit smoking



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