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Pot, Tobacco Smoke Exposure Equals More Kids in ER

By Dennis Thompson

HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, May 7, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Clouds of pot and cigarette smoke in a home make it more likely a young child will visit the emergency room or have an ear infection, researchers say.

Secondhand smoke from marijuana and tobacco increases a kid’s odds of going to the ER, according to preliminary findings from a Colorado study.

“Those kids have an average of two-and-a-half ER visits in the prior year, whereas kids who were not exposed at all had an average of two visits per year,” said lead researcher Dr. Adam Johnson. He’s an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Kids exposed to the combination of cigarette and pot smoke in a home were also 80 percent more likely to develop ear infections, Johnson and his colleagues found.

Homes where people use both pot and tobacco are likely to have larger amounts of secondhand smoke, Johnson explained.

“Very similar compounds are being released in marijuana smoke as in tobacco smoke,” he said. “You would theorize the same kind of chemicals the kids are breathing in to cause diseases from tobacco smoke should be very similar with marijuana.”

Secondhand tobacco smoke has been linked to a number of health problems in children, including upper respiratory infections, ear infections and asthma, Johnson said.

“I think there’s this perception that marijuana smoke and marijuana use in general is not as harmful as tobacco,” Johnson continued. “I don’t know where that came from.”

For this study, researchers surveyed 1,500 parents and caregivers who took their children to the emergency room at Children’s Hospital Colorado, in Aurora. The kids’ average age was 4 years, and the average age of the parent was 32.

About 9 percent of parents reported regularly smoking marijuana, and 19 percent said they regularly smoke cigarettes.

Kids were about 24 percent more likely to have visited an emergency room within the past year if they lived in a home where people smoked both pot and tobacco, the findings showed.

Continued

Those kids also had nearly double the rate of ear infections for the past year, the researcher said.

However, the investigators found no statistically significant correlation between either tobacco or pot smoking individually and the risk of ER visits or ear infections.

Dr. Norman Edelman, senior scientific advisor to the American Lung Association, said that that finding is “a little disappointing because there’s lots of data to show that kids who live with parents who just smoke cigarettes have an increased number of ear infections. I don’t know why they didn’t find that.”

At the same time, it makes sense that homes where both pot and tobacco are smoked would pose a worse health risk for kids, Edelman continued.

“It tells us the more bad stuff kids are exposed to, the more likely they are to get ear infections,” Edelman said. “But I don’t want the public to think it’s OK to smoke cigarettes, your kids won’t get ear infections, because the bulk of existing data contradict that.”

Johnson said the researchers will continue to track the health of some of these kids for the next year to gather more data about the risks of secondhand smoke.

“I think it’s going to get more and more prevalent as more states across the country start legalizing [marijuana], because it’s a big business, and there’s a lot of push to legalize recreational marijuana use,” Johnson said.

The study findings were presented Saturday at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in Toronto. Research and conclusions presented at meetings should be considered preliminary if they haven’t been published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

Kids exposed to the combination of cigarette and pot smoke in a home В were also 80 percent more likely to develop ear infections.

Ear infections are down. Here’s probably why

Sometimes as a medical writer and physician, I think I am only telling people what they are doing wrong, but there were two stories out last week about what actions a parent can do to prevent illness in their child: middle ear infections in children are markedly decreasing and we think we know why, and taking fish oil during the third trimester of pregnancy could decrease the chance of asthma in that unborn child. I will address the former today and you’ll find out more about the fish oil in another future post.

A recent study in Pediatrics found that acute middle ear infections had fallen markedly compared to 20 years ago. The rate at 3 months fell by 67 percent, at 6 months by 41 percent and at 1 year by 26 percent. Major contributions to this decrease were:

  • the prevention of upper respiratory infection by Pneumococcal and Influenza vaccines (and by less exposure to others with colds)
  • increased breastfeeding,
  • decreased exposure to smoking

This study found that the more respiratory infections a child has, the more likely that child is to have a middle ear infection so children in daycare have more ear infection since they are exposed to more colds. Increasing numbers of parents are rejecting immunizations, but children up-to-date on these vaccines get many less serious infections in spite of exposure to other ill children.

Breastfed children, even when exposed to illness, get many less complications especially many less middle ear infections. Breastfed children also are less likely to be obese. The longer the mother breastfeeds the longer these benefits help the child.

Exposure to smoking (primarily tobacco, but probably also marijuana) is bad for infants in many ways: a much higher rate of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, much higher rate of lung infections, higher rate of asthma, and markedly increase colds turning into middle ear infections.

Every Thursday, we’ll send you ways to help you live better and stay connected while we’re social distancing.

Middle ear infection is often over-diagnosed and this study was careful to use strict rules for diagnosing actual ear infections that were probably caused by bacteria. Unfortunately, just having a fever can make the ear drum red, but if there is fluid behind the ear drum and the ear drum is not moving with the child’s breathing then a middle ear infection is likely.

When an uncomfortable child with cold symptoms comes into the emergency department or has an acute care visit to a doctor’s office, both the parent and the practitioner want to do something to make the poor child better. However, there is generally not much one can do for a common cold. Over the counter or prescription cold medicines are a multi-billion dollar business, and they do not work well at any age and actually can make children less than 6 years much more irritable. So parents demand medicine, and all too often doctors over diagnose middle ear infections and then prescribe unnecessary antibiotics. There is even some data that shows that fever reducer/pain medicine such as Tylenol or ibuprofen may short-term make the child feel better, but may prolong the illness by reducing the body’s ability to fight off the infection quickly.

So to minimize your child’s chance of a middle ear infection in the first year of life, make sure they get their immunizations, do not let anyone smoke around them, and breastfeed them as long as you can. Also, minimize the exposure to colds if possible. Eventually, the child will be exposed to people and their illnesses, but the older the child is, the less likely they are to get a middle ear infection on top of the cold.

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A recent study found that acute middle ear infections had fallen markedly compared to 20 years ago for babies.