September 3, 2010, Newsletter Issue #3: Asthma, Child Abuse, and Second Hand Smoke

Tip of the Week

It's obvious that an asthmatic shouldn't smoke, but what if the asthmatic is a child? 
Parent’s second hand smoke is not only an obvious trigger to a child's asthma, but some states and custody cases, can be seen as a form of child abuse.
There are three categories of abuse, mild (not restraining a child in a car seat), moderate (i.e. child consistently dressed in shorts and no jacket in the winter), and severe (e.g., a child with asthma who has not received appropriate medications over a long period of time and is frequently admitted to the hospital). In these cases of severe child abuse, CPS should be and is usually involved, as is the legal system.
According to statistics from the San Antonio Tobacco Prevention and Control Coalition, more than 126 million nonsmoking Americans continue to be exposed to secondhand smoke in homes, vehicles, workplaces, and public places. Among these, 200,000 to 1 million are children with asthma.
Asthma isn't the only problem kids have when inhaling second hand smoke. They are more likely to have chronic sinus infections and ear infections, which are both asthma triggers. Add in the child is prone to be poorly controlled and have more asthma attacks, a red flag can be raised by school officials or health care providers.
This disease is one of the reasons asthmatic children miss school so much. In fact, childhood asthma is one of the number one reasons that kids miss school.
Because of the severity of the chronic illnesses and the potential for scarring of the lungs with repeated and poorly controlled asthma, courts have ruled that smoking around children can be a form of child abuse.
In custody battles, it is not unusual for the non-smoking parent to file and win primary or full custody of the child because of the risks of secondhand smoke. In cases where both parents smoked and the child had chronic problems with asthma, there have been cases where the child was removed from the home and placed with a third party.
Many believe if the person smokes away from the child, in another room or outside, it will help. Problem with that theory is the smoke and chemicals in the cigarettes cling a person's clothes, hair, breath, skin. Even if the person changes clothes before being around the child, the child can still be exposed to 4,000 chemicals compounds and 69 of those chemicals are known to cause cancer.
These chemicals can set off even a well controlled child’s asthma and may send the child to the hospital. If there are enough cases of admission, Child Protective Services can get involved and a child can be removed from the home.
If a smoking parent is worried they will be reported for child abuse due to the child’s repeated asthmatic problems, don’t refrain from the child being seen because if the child suffers severely due to lack of medical attention, this can be seen as a form of child abuse.
Instead, work more towards quitting the habit and improving not only the health of the child, but the parent.
Plus, it can save thousands of dollars a year and keeps everyone out of the doctor’s office. 

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