The relationship between smoking and allergies is complicated. There are many reasons why people with allergies should not smoke. However, some experts say that smoking can also help with allergies. If true, are the benefits worth it? Do the health risks still outweigh the good, rendering it moot?
Allergies and Asthma in Children
Numerous studies have shown how children who live with a smoker has an increased risk for health problems. Their lungs are still developing, and being exposed to tobacco smoke increases their risk for numerous illnesses including bronchitis, tracheitis, pneumonia, and asthma. Infants who are exposed to second-hand smoke also have an increased chance to develop otitis media (middle ear infection).
Second-hand smoke has been linked to being the cause for 26,000 new asthma cases a year. Many more infections of the lower respiratory tract have been associated with second-hand smoke as well. The chances of sudden infant death syndrome rises to four times if the mother or both parents smoke.
Children who grow up exposed to cigarette smoke are more likely to have a reduced lung function, as well as respiratory infection symptoms. These include wheezing, coughing, and excess phlegm. Tobacco smoke also causes a rise of up to six times for children to have persistent middle ear infections, especially if the kids have current allergies and nasal congestion.
Smoking Allergies in Adults
Because of the numerous cancer-causing compounds and toxic irritants in them, cigarettes can cause or aggravate allergic reactions in smokers. These compounds can cause an inflammation of the airways that lead to the lungs. Because of this, immune cells rush to the airways causing a release of histamines – which results in allergic reactions.
One will know if they have an allergic reaction via several symptoms. The most common are vocal hoarseness, wheezing and breathing difficulties. Because histamine is released into the upper respiratory tract, this and the throat swell up. When the upper respiratory tract has expanded, airflow is decreased thus limiting oxygen movement into the lungs and carbon dioxide out.
Tobacco smoke can also irritate and inflame the nasal passages, causing histamine to be released. This results in sneezing, itchy eyes, post-nasal drip, and a stuffy nose. These are common immunologic responses to the chemicals found in cigarettes. These have no cure, and the only remedy is to avoid smoking and second-hand smoke.
Do Cigarettes Help Allergies?
A new study conducted by researchers at Utrecht University in the Netherlands claim that cigarette smoke stopped mast cells from producing inflammation-induced proteins, which is the result of being exposed to allergens. While the results were confirmed in mice, the researchers state that the same effect is most likely true for humans as well.
Many doctors and experts were surprised with the results of the study. Dr. Michael Roizen, MD said, “It directly impedes your immune system so it might lessen allergies. The problem is, it affects your lungs, making breathing tougher, so it seems like your allergies are worse.”
While there is evidence that smoking can help people with allergies, the harmful effects still outweigh the benefits. Also, since smoking makes breathing harder, even if there was a beneficial side effect of smoking, it is countered by the worsening of other symptoms.
Why continue to smoke? Aside from its deadly effects, life becomes more difficult if allergic reactions hound you throughout your smoking days. Additionally, the effect of second-hand smoke can cause respiratory problems in children as well.
Whether you are allergic or not, smoking is never the answer. Ex-smokers agree that the quality of their lives had improved sevenfold when they stopped smoking. For the sake of your kids and your health, better quit now than regret it later.