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Is Secondhand Smoke Making Your Asthma Worse?

Being around a smoker is bad for everyone, but especially for people with asthma.

image of squished cigarette butt

When you have asthma, you may be sensitive to certain things in the air or on surfaces that you come in contact with. These irritants can cause you to have a flare-up, causing the tubes that carry air to your lungs to get swollen and irritated. A thick, sticky liquid is produced, which can clog your airways even more.

Asthma triggers

Conditions that bring on an asthma flare-up are called triggers. For some people, dust, animal hair or pollen may trigger symptoms. Your triggers may be different from another person with asthma.

Exposure to secondhand smoke is a common asthma trigger. Secondhand smoke is the combination of smoke that comes out of a lit cigarette and smoke that a smoker breathes out. It contains thousands of toxic chemicals. About 70 of those are known to cause cancer.

Tips to help avoid secondhand smoke

If smoke is one of your asthma triggers, being near secondhand smoke may cause coughing, wheezing, trouble breathing or tightness in the chest. So it’s important to avoid or limit exposure to smokers and secondhand smoke.

If you have asthma, make sure no one smokes near you. That includes any place you may spend a lot of time. This could be your home, your car, your office or public places where smoking may be allowed. Smoke can seep into clothing, upholstery, carpet and other surfaces. In most cases, restaurants and bars that allow smoking, even in non-smoking sections, do not provide enough protection from secondhand smoke.

Take steps to reduce your exposure to secondhand smoke — it’s an important part of controlling your asthma.

By Ginny Greene, Contributing Editor

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tips from former smokers. Asthma and secondhand smoke. Accessed: November 19, 2015.
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Tobacco smoke. Accessed: November 19, 2015. Smoking and asthma. Accessed: November 19, 2015.

Last Updated: April 23, 2015