A new study found children of smokers may carry significant levels of nicotine around on their hands.

Child washing hands at the sink
Credit: MIA Studio/Shutterstock 

You already know your kid's hands are coated with germs and other nasties you don't even want to begin to think about for too long. It's why we're constantly insisting our little ones wash their hands thoroughly and frequently. Now, there's even more reason to get them to the sink.

In a small pilot study published in the British Medical Journal and titled Tobacco Control, researchers from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and San Diego State University conclude that children of smokers may carry significant levels of nicotine on their hands, even if no one around them is actively smoking.

The study looked at 25 children whose parents gave consent during emergency room visits between April and September 2016. They were all brought into the hospital for illnesses that may have been related to secondhand smoke exposure, and all of the parents were smokers. All of the kids had detectible nicotine on their hands and all but one had cotinine in their saliva. The contaminant is considered a biological marker for secondhand smoke exposure, which is linked to respiratory and ear infections, more frequent and severe asthma attacks, bronchitis, and a slew of other health problems for children, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

Since this was a small study, researchers plan to include more than 700 kids in a bigger analysis down the road. In the meantime, the study definitely serves as a reminder to parents who smoke that saying so long to cigarettes is the only, best way to protect kids from exposure to nicotine and all the toxicity that comes with it.