Living with a smoker ups absenteeism in school

Washington: Children exposed to second-hand smoke at home miss more days of school than their peers who live in smoke-free homes, a new study has found.

Researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in the US found that children living with smoker parents have higher rates of respiratory illnesses caused by second-hand smoke.

"Among children ages 6 to 11 who live with smokers, one quarter to one third of school absences are due to household smoking," said lead researcher Douglas Levy of the Mongan Institute for Health Policy at MGH.

"On a national basis these absences result in USD 227 million in lost wages and time for caregivers or their employers," Levy said.

The researchers, who reported their study online in the journal Pediatrics, noted that one-third of US children live with at least one smoker, and more than half of those aged 3 to 11 years have detectable levels of a blood marker for tobacco exposure.

Second-hand smoking has been shown to increase incidence of ear infections and several respiratory conditions, and school absenteeism is an accessible measure of serious illness in children.

Earlier studies of the relationship between lost school days and household smoking have focused on local populations and did not evaluate the severity of the problem`s impact.

For their research, the MGH team analysed data from the 2005 National Health Interview Study, an annual in-person survey of representative households nationwide.

They evaluated the children`s general health by asking their parents about their smoking habits and the number of time the kids missed school due to illness. They also asked the type of illness the children suffered in the past.

Of the 3,087 children whose information was analysed for this study, more than 14 per cent lived in a home with at least one person who smoked in the house – 8 per cent lived with one household smoker and 6 per cent with two or more – which represents 2.6 million children nationwide.

hildren living with one in-home smoker had an average of 1.06 more days absent, and those living with two or more had 1.54 more days absent than did children living in homes where no one smoked indoors.

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