A breath of fresh air for asthma sufferers
June 11, 2008 · Updated 11:26 AM
"Having asthma is hard enough on a child. Having asthma and trying to live with it in a world filled with secondhand smoke could be fatal.Children who breathe secondhand smoke are more likely to suffer from asthma, pneumonia, ear infections, bronchitis and other lung diseases, said Meg Hagemann, health educator for the Kitsap County Health District.Hagemann noted that an estimated 150,000-300,000 infants and children who breathe secondhand smoke are diagnosed with lower respiratory tract infections. Of those, 7,500-15,000 result in hospitalization.The Tobacco Free Kitsap County Coalition recently kicked off a new public health campaign, Secondhand Smoke: Take it Outside, to help protect children from the damaging effects of tobacco smoke exposure. People often underestimate the negative health effects of secondhand smoke, said Dr. Willa Fisher, director of the county health district. It makes our children sick and can cause cancer.Fisher said secondhand smoke contains some 4,000 chemicals, more than 50 of which can cause cancer.Beth Mosley of Kingston, who works for the Central Kitsap School District as an alcohol an drug prevention specialist, has felt the impact of secondhand smoke. Although Mosley never smoked, she developed chronic illnesses as a result of inhaling her parents' secondhand smoke.I have chronic bronchitis, chronic sinusitis, I'm prone to upper respiratory infections, and I'm highly allergic to any sort of chemicals such as household cleaning products, she said.And just a whiff of swimming pool chlorene will close up her sinuses and set off a bout of bronchitis, or sinusitis, or whatever part of my body wants to react, she said.Growing up with two parents who were smokers, Mosley said she had a lot of headaches, and What my mom called colds. I recall her saying to a friend of hers, 'Beth always has a cold.'It was only within the past few years, after visiting allergists, that secondhand smoke was implicated as the cause. The doctor asked if I smoked, then if my parents smoked. I went to several doctors in trying to get this taken care of, Mosley said. After the diagnosis I learned to live with it, to compensate.Mosley's mother died of emphysema as a result of smoking, and her father died of a stroke, possibly as a result of smoking. They were very heavy smokers, (unfiltered) Chesterfields and Lucky Strikes. After my mom was diagnosed with emphysema she tried to quit, and couldn't so she went to filters, Mosley said.I had a talk with her, about why she couldn't quit. It's so addictive. She had an addition so that she would panic, she would do anything to get a cigarette, Mosely recalled.Her voice broke and she fought back tears as she added, An hour before she died, she was in the hospital in intensive care, all hooked up to IVs and oxygen, and she was begging for a cigarette.Rico Magalhaes of Port Orchard is a parent who has tried to quit smoking for his children's sake. Although he still struggles with it, he made changes that have helped his daughter, Samantha, in her battle with asthma.Samantha, now 11, was diagnosed with asthma when she was 8. Her 12-year-old sister, Michele, also had a milder case of asthma which has improved dramatically, Rico Magalhaes said.I cut way back, and try not to smoke around the girls, he said.Marcia Reidel, a Harrison Hospital respiratory therapist who works with Samantha, said Rico not only goes outside to smoke, he also keeps a special hooded jacket outside for the purpose.A hood keeps the smoke off the hair. You leave the jacket outside, and the smoke, and odor and chemicals cling to that, she said.And never smoke in the car. The concentration of smoke and chemicals is way too high, she added.According to information from the American Lung Association, secondhand smoke causes increased risk of asthma, as well as bronchitis, ear infection, pneumonia and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.The amount of asthma (nationwide) is skyrocketing, said the Health District's Hagemann. She noted a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics that Secondhand smoke is associated with higher risk of developing asthma and more frequent asthma attacks in children who already have the disease.Each year in the United States, an estimated 11 percent of all asthma cases are due to smoking in the home.Another report, Asthma and the Environment by the President's Task Force on Environmental health, said Nearly one in 13 school-aged children has asthma, and the percentage of children with asthma is rising more rapidly in preschool-aged children than any other group.Because of the steps her father took to protect her from secondhand smoke, therapy with Reidel, and management techniques, Samantha's asthma has improved to the point that she hopes to join the sixth grade track team and play basketball next year at Sydney Glenn Elementary School in Port Orchard.Because of her mother's enthusiasm in learning more about how to deal with asthma and secondhand smoke, Samantha also has gotten involved in spreading the word.Eileen Magalhaes invested her own money in an Open Airways program, produced by the American Lung Association, to perform public education with elementary-age children and families about the dangers of secondhand smoke.Samantha recently appeared in a public service video about Kitsap County's burn ban, talking about how smoke from neighbors buring trash and plastic waste affected her breathing.It used to be really bad, it made me not able to breathe ... I feel really tight, like someone reaching into you and squeezing, she said on the video.Samantha has also started going to health fairs with Reidel, to talk about how secondhand smoke affected her, and help pass out information. It felt nice that I was doing something, Samantha said. "