That’s the first time that she took a puff. She inhaled lightly. Just a little. And when she released the smoke, there was a 3-minute cough that ‘attempted’ to kill her instantly. She coughed until her eyes became watery.
And while she was enduring this, all her friends were on the floor laughing at her ‘primitivity’. But that didn’t stop her from taking her second puff…and her third. She ended up smoking the entire cigarette by herself. She was a 20-year old first year at Maseno University.
What she didn’t know at the time was that she was going to smoke for 12 years.
Rehema narrates how she graduated from smoking half a cigarette in 2 days to smoking an entire pack in a day by herself.
Everyone, including the friends who first introduced her to smoking, noticed her overheated desire. They made a reference to her when talking about chain smokers.
But, this is not what worries her most. She got pregnant at 31 and gave birth to a beautiful baby girl called Jacinta; a name she greatly wanted for the baby. And all was okay.
She wanted everything to be fine. But, her baby started coughing and having what she described as ‘struggling to breath’.
She took the baby that same day to a clinic in Westlands, Nairobi. She was working for a certain NGO around Riverside.
Rehema ‘didn’t smoke’ in the presence of her baby because she cared for her. But, immediately after she was ushered into the doctor’s visitation room, she narrates that the doctor looked straight at her, at the baby and back. The doctor was shocked.
“Before I even started explaining why I had come, the doctor asked me for how long I had smoked. I will never forget that particular incident because it was like lightning. It opened my eyes in a certain way. I almost stood up to walk away. I knew what the problem was!”
But, as she talked to the doctor, she explained that even when she was pregnant, the habit of smoking still pressed her and won almost all the time. By then, the doctor had identified the cause of the coughing and wheezing sound that the baby had to be a result of Asthma.
According to Doctor Donna, a medical practitioner at Kenyatta Hospital, the main symptoms of Asthma are coughing and wheezing and shortness of breath. The doctor further explains that the development of a baby’s lungs can be impaired if she is exposed to tobacco by the expectant mother.
The World Health Organization ranks Asthma as one of the major non-communicable diseases in the world. According to its report, Asthma claimed 461, 000 deaths in 2019 out of the affected 262, 000, 000!
Out of the 262 million people living with Asthma, 4 million people are in Kenya with the majority being in Nairobi and Eldoret.
Asthma is listed as the top priority non-communicable disease in Kenya by the Ministry of Health.
Causes of Asthma
Besides the genetic makeup of an individual, some of the things that trigger Asthma are smoke, scents, cold and dust.
On the other side, Asthma can be influenced by obesity, allergic conditions and premature birth.
1. It is advisable to do Chest X-rays to determine whether there are other diseases in the lungs.
2. Blood tests can determine the amount of carbon dioxide and oxygen in the patient’s blood.
3. Allergy tests can also be done to determine the kinds of substances that cause reactions in the patient.
4. Spirometry – this test determines the speed if airflow and the amount of air flowing into and out of the lungs.
Treatment and management
The World Health Organization has listed two main types of inhalers.
1. Bronchodilators that serve to open the air passages and relieve symptoms.
2. Steroids which reduce inflammation in the air passages.
So, the next time you take that puff and you are pregnant remember that you are injuring and affecting the life of your baby. The baby will struggle and sometimes to the point of death.
Plus, there are so many other effects of smoking tobacco. Even the packet itself has warning labels. You decide!