Parents who smoke around kids increase ear infections

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Keeping Kids Healthy

Here is some information on ear infections and smoking in children’s living space.

Ear infections are common in children. They include acute otitis media, which is an infection in the middle ear space associated with pain and fever. There is an estimated 5 million ear infections each year in the United States.

There also is otitis media with effusion. Children with otitis media with effusion have extra fluid in the middle ear, so symptoms may include feeling like the ear is plugged or difficulty hearing.

Even if these infections are common, they can have consequences. Sometimes they require surgery, and they may make the children at risk for hearing loss and delayed speech development.

A recent review in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine showed that having a family member who smoked raised the risk of ear infections in the children who shared their living space.

Children who live with smokers miss more days of school than children living with nonsmokers. The National Health Interview Survey found that children ages 6-11 who lived with smokers were more likely than their peers who lived with nonsmokers to be absent from school because they had ear infections and colds.

The likelihood of a child having three or more infections in the previous 12 months increased with the number of household members who smoked and was significantly higher among children who lived with at least two smokers.

Interestingly, there was no difference with the number of chest infections between children who lived with nonsmokers and those who lived with one person who smoked in the house. However, those who lived with two smokers had more chest infections.

Even if your child has had some ear infections, quitting smoking will still help to prevent future ear infections and their potential risks. Many people are not able to quit smoking on the first try.

There are many resources to help with the difficulties in quitting smoking.
Online:

  • smokefree.gov
  • becomeanex.org

Sally Robinson is a clinical professor of pediatrics at UTMB Children’s Hospital, and Keith Bly is an associate professor of pediatrics and director of the UTMB Pediatric Urgent Care Clinics. This column isn’t intended to replace the advice of your child’s physician.

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