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Smoking, airway narrowing, and sudden infant death syndrome
After studying airway and other tissues, together with autopsy data, from 32 infants who died of sudden infant death syndrome, Australian researchers have concluded that maternal smoking during pregnancy alters airway structure which can lead to excessive airway narrowing in exposed babies.
The investigators said that alterations in airway structure from in utero cigarette smoke exposure are those likely to result in excessive airway narrowing in response to irritants encountered during the postnatal period. Such narrowing could account for the symptoms and abnormal lung function in exposed infants.
The investigators believe that the level of change in the inner airway wall of the babies who were exposed in the womb may be dose-related, particularly in mothers who smoked more than 20 cigarettes per day. They also believe that smoking mothers tend to under-report the number of cigarettes they smoke. The research appears in the first issue for January 2003 of the American Thoracic Society's peer-reviewed American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.