A new report from Perth’s Telethon Institute for Child Health Research has found a strong link between childhood ear infections and exposure to tobacco smoke.
In Aboriginal children, these ear infections typically start at a younger age, are much more common and more likely to result in hearing loss.
Up to 20 percent of children have more than three ear infections between 1 and 2 years of age.
If their hearing is damaged, it can seriously affect their educational outcomes and social circumstances in adulthood.
Key findings from the project include:
- Otitis media was diagnosed at least once in 74% of Aboriginal children and 45% of non-Aboriginal children.
- 64% of Aboriginal children and 40% of non-Aboriginal children were exposed to environmental tobacco smoke.
- If we eliminated exposure to tobacco smoke we estimate that we could reduce ear infections by 27% in Aboriginal children and 16% in non-Aboriginal children
- The impact of passive smoking in the home on ear infections was reduced if the children also attended day care.
These results highlight the importance of reducing children’s exposure to passive smoking, and this is particularly important for Aboriginal people where the rates of both smoking and otitis media are high.