During the past decade, fewer children without asthma were exposed to environmental tobacco smoke, but the number of children with asthma exposed to smoke was steady, according to a data brief by the CDCs National Center for Health Statistics.
From 1999 to 2010, the number of children ages 3-19 without asthma who were exposed to environmental tobacco smoke decreased from 57.3% to 44.2%, according to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. During the same time period, the number of children with asthma exposed to smoke remained basically the same, with 57.9% exposed in 1999-2002 and 54% exposed in 2007-10. These results show the proportion of children with asthma exposed to smoke is higher (54%) than that of children without asthma (44.2%).
From 2007-10, 1 in 10 children in the U.S. had asthma, and the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program Guidelines for Diagnosis and Management of Asthma recommend people who have asthma avoid exposure to tobacco smoke. Environmental tobacco smoke has been linked to higher risk of middle ear infections, bronchitis and pneumonia, coughing and wheezing and worse lung function. Children with asthma whose parents smoke show more severe symptoms and experience more frequent flare-ups, authors wrote in the brief.
Several demographic subgroups also experienced higher amounts of environmental tobacco smoke. From 2007-10, 57.6% of girls with asthma were exposed to environmental tobacco smoke, compared with 43.6% of girls without asthma, the data showed. There was no statistically significant difference in exposure for boys with or without asthma.
When comparing by race and ethnicity, Mexican-American children were the only group with a higher number of children with asthma exposed to smoke (38.2%) than children without asthma (27.4%). In families with an income below 185% of the federal poverty line, children with asthma also were more likely to be exposed to smoke than children without asthma. This observation remained true for families earning between 185% and 350% of the poverty guidelines, but not for children in higher-income families, the authors noted.
Among children ages 6 to 11, a higher percentage of those with asthma were exposed to environmental smoke than those without asthma. No significant difference was seen in ages 3-5 or 12-19.
Data is collected for the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey through an in-home interview and a standardized physical exam.
To view the full data brief, visit www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db126.htm.