An ear infection is the most common cause for a pediatric visit to a medical facility. Nearly half of all children by the age of three have had at least one ear infection. In the U.S. alone, the cost to treat ear infections is $3.5 billion dollars annually. Ear infections are more common in children because of the difference in developing anatomy compared to adults; however in 2006 the Surgeon General said there was enough evidence to suggest a connection between secondhand smoke and pediatric ear infections. It is believed that cigarette smoke leads to a decreased immune system, upper respiratory infection, and inflammation of the tissue surrounding the respiratory system, all of which contribute to ear infections.
In a study published in The Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, children who lived in homes with two or more smokers had 85% more ear infections than children who lived with non-smokers. Even if the child is not directly exposed to burning tobacco or secondhand smoke, particulates remain on parents’ clothing or breath, which may still be inhaled by a child when in close proximity. In addition to the financial burden of treating an ear infection, a fluctuating hearing loss may also be observed, which can delay speech and language development and motor skills. So protect your child’s health and your own by putting down that cigarette.