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Cigarette smoke worsens respiratory infections in infants

d they asked mothers about their own problems with allergies and asthma. The idea was to learn about several potential risk factors to determine why RSV affects some children so severely.

"What we're trying to study isn't the likelihood of getting the disease because it seems just about every kid gets RSV," Castro says. "We wanted to learn what factors are driving these severe, life-threatening infections."

Not surprisingly, one of the most important risk factors for severe infection was exposure to cigarette smoke.

"Smoking in the household is really detrimental to these kids," Castro says. "The kids who lived with mothers or others who smoked developed more severe RSV infections than the kids who were not exposed to cigarette smoke."

The study found that 28 percent of the children in the study lived with a mother who smoked. A total of 40 percent lived in a house where at least one person smoked. And Castro says those children had more severe infections. But somewhat surprisingly, smoking during pregnancy didn't seem to increase the risk of severe infection.

"It's a great thing not to smoke during pregnancy," Castro says, "but it's equally important not to smoke after pregnancy. Kids spend a lot of time with their mothers during the first few months of life, and if the mother is smoking, it's going to be detrimental to the child's health."

Age is another risk factor for serious RSV infection. The younger the child, the more serious the infection tended to be. Castro blames that increase in risk on lung and airway development. The tiny windpipes of small children can become clogged with mucous and other secretions more easily than the bigger, more developed airways of older children.

Surprisingly, the RBEL study also found that African-American children tended to have less serious infections than Caucasian children. Because RSV infection is linked to childhood asthma and because African-Am
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Contact: Jim Dryden
jdryden@wustl.edu
314-286-0110
Washington University School of Medicine
8-Mar-2005


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