Can just the smell of cigarette smoke trigger asthma/allergy issues?

DD1 spends a lot of time at one particular friend's house.  There are 4 adults in this home who smoke.  I generally don't even get out of the car when I drop her off/pick her up because the smell in the house is really bad.  Anyway, dd always reeks of cigarette smoke when she comes home from there.  She's been there the last 2 days after school for a few hours.  

She has seemed to have some increased allergy issues this week (mainly nasal stuff, but some coughing).  DH suggested that it may be due to the cigarette smoke.  Then again, we have all had some stuffiness this past week – I think there's something new blooming.  

So…I guess she is being exposed to the actual smoke because I'm pretty sure the adults smoke inside the house.  But..I'm not sure that her issues are any worse while there vs immediately afterward vs hours after.  So…is it the actual smoke, the smell or other allergy issues?


Comments 16

  • K8sMom2002

    Jen, I'm extremely sensitive to cigarette smoke/smell. One of the times I got the sickest the quickest (yeah, I was going for a rhyme) was being force to ride several hours in a minivan with a co-worker who was completely addicted to cigarettes. He would have us pull off onto the shoulder of the road, where he would hop out and smoke a cigarette. Then he would climb BACK in the minivan. 

    I was so sick. 

    Is there any way that the friend could come to your house after school? I know you're in the middle of a move, but if the scent of smoke is that strong, she's being exposed to it.

  • K8sMom2002

    Here is this from the :

    There’s no research in the medical literature as of yet showing that lingering tobacco smoke odors or residuals from it cause cancer in people. Research does show that particles from secondhand tobacco smoke can settle in dust and on surfaces and remain there long after the smoke is gone. Some studies suggest the particles can last for months. (Emphasis mine) Even though it’s no longer in the form of smoke, researchers often call this thirdhand smoke (THS) or residual tobacco smoke

    Particles that settle out from tobacco smoke have been shown to combine with gases in the air to form cancer-causing compounds that settle onto surfaces. For instance, NNK and PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), carcinogens that are known to cause lung cancer, have been found in dust samples taken from the homes of smokers. Research has also shown that thirdhand smoke can damage human DNA in cell cultures and impact blood clotting in lab animals. 

    So I'm thinking that if people smoke in a closed-up house, the particles can remain and then get stirred up. If a person who is sensitive to cigarette smoke then goes into that house, she can be exposed to those particles. 

    On the other hand, there is the , the opposite of the placebo effect. As the that I linked to says:

    For some patients, the mere suggestion of side effects is enough to bring on negative symptoms.

    So it's hard to know. There are strong scents like tobacco that I can't deal with. Whether it's "really" real for me or not, I steer clear, because why on earth would I want to cause myself misery?

  • Mandy

    I too am really bothered by smoke. If I smell it, it gets things "twitching". Smoking around children angers me. Yes freedom of choice and all that, but exposing them to 2nd and 3rd hand smoke when we know the negative impacts gets my blood boiling. It may not cause cancer but it certainly contribues to breathing and allergy issues. Thanks for sharing that info Cynthia. And ditto to seeing if the friend can come to your place instead. There may be many contributing factors but you will only get a better sense by process of elimination.

  • Kathy P

    I got into a cab once that reeked of smoke and immediately starting having issues. I was already sick, so my throat and lungs were twitchy. I was barely in the door, sliding to the middle seat, when I could feel myself gasping! I knew it was a short cab ride, so I did the best I could. I used my gauzy scarf as a filter and tried to just breathe slowly.

  • Jen

    Found out her friend also has cats and she's allergic to cats.  She said she wasn't worried about the cats because they weren't in the same room, but we all know how the dander makes its way around the house.  

    So…I think it's possible that it could've been the smoke and/or cats.  But, she also sounds like she's got a lot of the post nasal drip cough happening – she's been stuffy for about a week now, as have my other kids (and myself) off/on.  She definitely sounds the worst (stuffiest, cough) out of us. Her immune system is probably just on overload – the cats/smoke at the friend's house, dust from moving and whatever is currently blooming (I think ragweed is bad right now). 

    I totally agree about smoking with kids in the home.  I understand that the addiction can be extremely hard to kick for most people.  Still, you would think they would go outside to smoke, at the least.  Dh's mom smoked in the house when he was growing up.  I always wonder if that contributed, at least in part, to her lung cancer (she passed away after a 6 mos battle – 17 yrs ago) and his lung cancer (survivor of nearly 4 years  - cancer free!). 

    Anyway….it probably is a good idea to have them either hang out here or even at the library (they are often working on school work together).  


  • Shea

    Ikes, cat! (It probably is the cat, ) but the smoke doesn't help, especially during a flare when sinuses and airways are irritated. Yes, i agree, have them pick another hangout spot!

  • Jen

    Whatever she has just isn't going away or lightening up at all. I've heard there are some colds going around as well. Then again, it doesn't seem to be affecting her energy level at all – she's still running around with her sisters. I gave her some cough medicine last night so she could sleep. 

  • Kathy P

    How is she today? Do you think it's a cold or still allergies?

    The cat would do me in and then I'd have less tolerance for the cigarette smell.

  • Jen

    She woke up ok and doesn't sound as stuffy and isn't coughing as much.  The symptoms seem more cold-like  - usually her allergies are a little more mild.  But, her energy level is fine, which leads me to believe allergies.  It's been raining all day here, so we shall see what that holds for allergy issues.

  • K8sMom2002

    I say invite the friend over this coming week and have her avoid the house … that way, you can see whether it is the cat/smoke/whatever. 

    Jen, that's scary about your DH's lung cancer. How did they catch it?

    My parents smoked like chimneys when I was growing up. I'm old enough that my mom's doctor had told her when she was expecting me to ease the stress of pregnancy by smoking! Yes, really!

    I was born 3 pounds and 3 ounces, a month premature with lungs that didn't quite work right. But no one told my mom not to smoke. Her dad died of lung cancer the year before I was born.

    I still remember going on vacation with my parents, and they would chain smoke with the windows up and the AC on, one cigarette after another. I didn't realize how hard smoke was to my lungs until I moved out and went to college. After that, I couldn't take a whiff of cigarette smoke without my lungs seizing in my chest. 

  • Jen

    Jen, that's scary about your DH's lung cancer. How did they catch it?

    He had a nagging cough that just wouldn't go away.  His primary thought maybe it was allergies or even reflux-related.  So, they tried treatments for those things and he wasn't getting any relief.  After a few months, she had him get a lung xray and that's when they found the abnormality and then continued scans/biopsies til they confirmed that's what it was.  Funny thing, though, is that the cough was apparently not caused by the cancer.  He had some issues after treatment and surgery and the ent said that he has an overactive cough reflex.  But…I'm kinda glad he had that nagging cough or we might've missed things until they spread (we were really lucky and they hadn't spread to nerves, nodes, etc..the surgeon did take out his upper right lobe).

  • K8sMom2002

    Oh, wow! I can see why you were glad for the nagging cough! Who would have ever thought of lung cancer??

    And he's doing okay now?

  • Jen

    Yep.  He's doing better than ever!  Clean scans for nearly 4 years now (he had the surgery in December of '14).  He runs, he goes to the gym and recently took up bike riding.

  • Jen

    I think whatever Karli had was probably more of a cold than anything else.  She seems to be doing much better.  She did go over to her friend's house after school yesterday.  She smelled awful when I picked her up.  My son started getting cranky at that point in the car ride (we picked her up on the way home from his special needs gym class) and I am fairly certain the pungent smell got to him. Even though it was raining, I had to put down the van windows a little.  When she asked if A (her friend) could come over here on Saturday, I told her that I'm pretty sure we can work that out.

  • K8sMom2002

    Glad Karli's doing better … when you're congested anyway, environmental irritants can make things worse. 

    I feel for Karli's friend! Second hand smoke is definitely no joke, and I really think it contributed to my current breathing problems.