How secondhand smoke boosts sinusitis risk

accreditation
0:00
play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
Studies suggest a link between secondhand smoke and sinusitis.
Studies suggest a link between secondhand smoke and sinusitis.

Secondhand smoke could be the reason for your chronic runny, itchy nose and sinus problems. 

Secondhand smoke exposure has been implicated as a risk factor for a number of respiratory ailments, including asthma and other conditions including heart disease and cancers of the sinus and lung. 

Research suggests that there could be a link between second-hand smoke and rhinosinusitis

Correlation of tobacco smoke exposure and sinusitis

According to a study published in Archives of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgeryresearchers compared secondhand smoke exposure among patients with chronic sinusitis to non-sinus sufferers matched for age, sex, and race in four settings: home, work, public settings, and private social gatherings.

Chronic sinusitis, also known as rhinosinusitis, refers to the inflammation of the tissue lining the sinuses. According to a previous Health24 article, sinusitis affects approximately 30% of the population at some point.

“If you’ve had a history of chronic rhinosinusitis or if you have sensitive nasal passages and sinuses and you’re vulnerable, then definitely, absolutely you should avoid secondhand smoke,” Dr C. Martin Tammemagi of Brock University in St. Catherines, Ontario, who helped conduct the study, explained. 

Dr Tammemagi and his colleagues found that exposure to secondhand smoke, especially at work and at private social functions like parties and weddings, increased the likelihood of suffering from chronic rhinosinusitis. In fact, they calculated that passive smoking is behind 40% of all cases of the condition in the US. 

The more places people reported being exposed to tobacco smoke, the higher their risk for chronic sinusitis. In South Africa, according to the World Health Organisation, more than a third of South Africans could be exposed to dangerous levels of secondhand smoke. 

40% of cases caused by secondhand smoke

Participants in the study with chronic sinusitis were almost twice as likely as those without sinusitis to report secondhand smoke exposure at various social gatherings – 51% compared to 28%.

In the work space, patients were more than twice as likely to report exposure – 18% compared to 7%. 

The participants were also more likely to report exposure at home and in public places, although these associations did not reach statistical importance. "Ours is one of the first studies to connect secondhand smoke to rhinosinusitis," Dr Tammemagi told the press. "Our research confirms that people are being exposed in large numbers and it indicates that about 40% of cases are caused by secondhand smoke."

Limiting exposure not easy

The finding that private social meetings are an important contributor to secondhand smoke exposure came as a surprise, according to Dr Tammemagi.

"Certainly from a public policy point of view, limiting these exposures is not easy," he said. "But people with sinus problems need to recognise that exposure when they go to a party or a card game at a friend's house puts them at risk."

However, Dr Tammemagi and his colleagues are still not exactly certain how secondhand smoke might cause sinusitis.

"We know that secondhand smoke contains thousands of irritating chemicals, and we suspect that they damage the immune system and lead to invasion by infectious agents," explained Dr Tammemagi.

"Also, the irritants in the secondhand smoke can lead to changes in the permeability of the membranes lining the nose and sinuses. This could make it more possible for allergens and toxins to enter the cells of the tissue."

Image credit: iStock 

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
The ANC's leadership race is heating up. Who do you think will be elected party president at Nasrec in December?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has got it in the bag
7% - 401 votes
I foresee a second term for Cyril Ramaphosa
82% - 4848 votes
Don’t discount a Zweli Mkhize win
11% - 670 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
18.07
-0.6%
Rand - Pound
20.16
+0.2%
Rand - Euro
17.68
+0.3%
Rand - Aus dollar
11.58
+0.1%
Rand - Yen
0.12
+0.1%
Gold
1,661.25
+0.0%
Silver
19.03
0.0%
Palladium
2,166.50
0.0%
Platinum
864.50
0.0%
Brent Crude
85.14
-2.4%
Top 40
57,390
+0.8%
All Share
63,726
+0.7%
Resource 10
60,230
+0.7%
Industrial 25
77,400
+0.8%
Financial 15
13,796
+0.7%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE