(HealthDay) -- Parents who smoke may put their children at greater risk for bladder irritation, according to a small new study.
Young children between the ages of 4 and 10 were at particular risk from exposure to secondhand smoke.
Bladder irritation involves the urge to urinate, urinating more frequently and incontinence. The study revealed that exposure to secondhand smoke is linked to more severe symptoms of bladder irritation: The more exposure the children had, the worse their symptoms became.
Led by Dr. Kelly Johnson, researchers from Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and Rutgers University analyzed survey information on 45 children ranging in age from 4 to 17. All had symptoms of bladder irritation. The researchers divided the children into four groups based on the severity of their symptoms: very mild, mild, moderate or severe.
Twenty-four of the children studied had moderate to severe symptoms of bladder irritation, while 21 had mild or very mild symptoms.
The children with moderate or severe symptoms were more likely to have consistent exposure to secondhand smoke, the researchers noted. Of these kids, 23 percent had a mother who smoked and 50 percent of them were regularly exposed to secondhand smoke while riding in a car.
On the other hand, the children whose mother didn't smoke and were not exposed to secondhand smoke in the car had only very mild or mild symptoms of bladder irritation.
The study was expected to be presented Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Urological Association in Atlanta. The data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
"Secondhand smoke is a leading cause of preventable death in the United States," Dr. Anthony Atala, a pediatric urologist at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and a spokesman for the AUA, said in an association news release. "Beyond conditions such as lung cancer, heart disease and asthma, we now know that smoking has a negative impact on urinary symptoms, particularly in young children. Data presented today should be added to the indisputable evidence that parents shouldn't smoke around their children."
While the study uncovered a link between secondhand smoke and bladder problems, it did not prove a cause-and-effect.
Explore further: Living with a smoker may raise blood pressure in boys
The U.S. Surgeon General has more about how tobacco smoke causes disease.