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How does tobacco smoke trigger asthma?

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When you inhale tobacco smoke, irritating substances settle in the moist lining of your airways. If you have asthma, that can trigger an attack.

Smoke also damages tiny hair-like structures in your airways called cilia. Normally, cilia sweep dust and mucus out of your airways. Tobacco smoke damages them so they are unable to work, allowing dust and mucus to build up.

Smoke also causes your lungs to make more mucus than normal. As a result, even more mucus can build up in the airways, triggering an attack.

From: Smoking and Asthma WebMD Medical Reference

SOURCES: American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: "No Butts About It: Smoking Makes Asthma Worse." 

American Lung Association: "What Is Lung Cancer?" 

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: "Indoor Environmental Asthma Triggers - Secondhand Smoke."

Reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar on May 12, 2018

SOURCES: American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: "No Butts About It: Smoking Makes Asthma Worse." 

American Lung Association: "What Is Lung Cancer?" 

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: "Indoor Environmental Asthma Triggers - Secondhand Smoke."

Reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar on May 12, 2018

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What is secondhand smoke?

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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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