Air purifiers ease asthma symptoms in children of smokers

Consumer Reports News: August 01, 2011 04:35 PM

Air purifiers are as effective as certain drugs in controlling asthma symptoms in children who live with smokers, according to a study published today in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Researchers divided a group of 126 asthmatic children who lived with a smoker into three groups: one that received an air purifier, another that got the device plus a health coach, and a third that received neither.

After six months, the researchers noted a nearly 50 percent drop in the amount of dust, dirt, smoke and other particulate matter in the air of the homes of families that received an air purifier. Asthmatic children in those homes also reported substantially more symptom-free days, though the amount of nicotine in the air or cotinine (a metabolite of nicotine) in their urine remained unchanged. People who also consulted with a health coach fared no better than those who just got the air purifier.

Twenty-one million U.S. children are exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes, and about 50 to 75 percent of children in the country have detectable levels of cotinine in their urine. Smoking not only makes asthma worse, it’s linked to bronchitis, ear infections, lung infections, and pneumonia in children. Secondhand smoke is also linked to between 150,000 and 300,000 lower-respiratory tract infections in children under 18 months of age each year, as well as 7,500 to 15,000 hospitalizations and 430 cases of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) deaths.

Bottom line: Our recent tests of air purifiers found that, if you have respiratory problems, an air purifier can help. But no air purifier alone will relieve asthma symptoms. To cut your child’s risk of severe asthma symptoms and attacks, and other health problems, quit smoking.

For more information, see our tips for quitting smoking and our recommended drug treatments for asthma.

A Randomized Trial of Air Cleaners and a Health Coach to Improve Indoor Air Quality for Inner-City Children With Asthma and Secondhand Smoke Exposure [Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine]
Key Facts About Secondhand Smoke [American Lung Association]

Ginger Skinner

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