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Secondhand smoke raises odds of hospital readmission for kids with asthma

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Children exposed to secondhand smoke at home or in the car face much greater odds of being readmitted to the hospital for asthma.  In fact, it's a two-fold increase according to a study by Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and Penn State Milton S. Hershey Children's Hospital.  Researcher's measured the blood and saliva of more than 600 children, looking for cotinine, a substance produced when the body breaks down nicotine. 

"What we found, focusing on the saliva sample, is about 80 percent of the children admitted for asthma had evidence of exposure to tobacco smoke," said senior study author Dr. Robert Kahn with Cincinnati Children's Hospital.

The study raises the possibility that measuring tobacco exposure in kids could lead to smoking cessation efforts for their parents and other caregivers.  Kahn said he has not met a parent in the last 5 or 10 years who smokes who hasn't tried to quit, so he thinks there's a need to come up with new ways to assist them in quitting.

"Certainly no parent wants to see their child admitted for asthma," he said.  "If this triggers a new motivation, a new commitment, then I think it could lead to potential cost savings both for their own health and for their child's health."

Kahn and the other researchers also hope this will provide an incentive for insurance companies to help caregivers quit smoking, rather than pay for the costs of children being readmitted. 

The study is published in the journal Pediatrics.  It's part of the Greater Cincinnati Asthma Risks Study, which is looking into the causes of hospital readmission, particularly for low income and minority children.