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Rev Panam Salud Publica. 2004 Sep;16(3):193-8.

Smoking at home is strongly associated with symptoms of asthma and rhinitis in children of primary school age in Trinidad and Tobago.

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University of the West Indies, Faculty of Medical Sciences-St. Augustine Campus, Champs Fleurs, Trinidad.



To compare, in the twin-island republic of Trinidad and Tobago, the prevalence of symptoms of asthma and rhinitis among children of primary school age who are exposed to household environmental tobacco smoke with the prevalence of these symptoms in their colleagues without this exposure.


Between September and December 2002, questionnaires based on the instrument developed for the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) were distributed, via the children in their schools, to parents of 6,611 Year 2 pupils (typically 6 years old) or Year 3 pupils (typically 7 years old) in 106 randomly selected schools in Trinidad and Tobago (5,511 pupils on Trinidad and 1,100 pupils on Tobago). We added to the standard ISAAC questionnaires two questions, one on household smoking and one on the ethnicity of the children.


A total of 3 170 completed questionnaires were suitable for further analysis (2,618 from Trinidad and 552 from Tobago). On Trinidad 782 of the children (29.9%) lived in homes where one or both parents smoked, and 513 (19.6%) had other relatives in the household who smoked. On Tobago 94 of the pupils (17.0%) had parents who smoked, and 84 (15.4%) came from homes where other residents smoked. Parental smoking was significantly associated with wheezing (odds ratio (OR): 1.43; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.11-1.83), exercise-induced wheezing (OR: 2.12; 95% CI: 1.59-2.82), nocturnal coughing (OR: 1.64; 95% CI: 1.37-1.97), and symptoms of rhinitis (OR: 1.35; 95% CI: 1.10-1.65) in the last 12 months as well as a history of hay fever/sinus problems (OR: 1.39; 95% CI: 1.11-1.74). Smoking in the home by adult residents other than parents was also significantly associated with all of these symptoms as well as a history of asthma (OR: 1.49; 95% CI: 1.13-1.97). In terms of ethnic differences, parental smoking was most prevalent in the homes of South Asian students, while smoking by other adults in the home occurred most commonly in the households of pupils of mixed race.


Even in Trinidad and Tobago, which is a tropical environment where more time is spent outdoors and homes have more open ventilation than in temperate climates, environmental tobacco smoke exposure is closely associated with an increased prevalence of symptoms of asthma and rhinitis in primary-school-aged children.

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