Secondhand smoke is a common asthma trigger for children. However, as a new study has proven, it can be hard to get reliable information on exposure to secondhand smoke from parents; either because they’re unaware of the exposure or because they’re trying to hide it.
The study looked at 619 children from the Cincinnati area who were admitted to the hospital due to asthma. When asked about exposure to secondhand smoke, 35% of the parents admitted that yes, their child is exposed to secondhand smoke. But saliva tests revealed that 80% of the children were exposed to secondhand smoke. The study found that parents’ admittance of smoke exposure didn’t significantly affect the likelihood of the child being readmitted to the hospital due to asthma. However, a positive saliva test for secondhand smoke clearly increased these odds.
Researchers also learned that saliva tests were more reliable than blood tests when testing for secondhand smoke. Only 56% of the blood tests detected secondhand smoke, whereas 80% of the saliva tests did. Saliva tests are also simpler and less invasive.
In the future, the researchers hope to use the results of saliva tests as a way to “engage parents around potential sources of smoke exposure and, with empathy not finger wagging; explore strategies to eliminate that exposure.” They will conduct a second study to see how successful these efforts are in decreasing hospital readmissions, and whether or not saliva tests are a cost effective way to fight asthma.