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Med J Aust. 2008 May 19;188(10):599-603.

The effect of passive smoking on the risk of otitis media in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children in the Kalgoorlie-Boulder region of Western Australia.

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Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, Centre for Child Health Research, University of Western Australia, Perth, WA, Australia.



To determine the risk of otitis media (OM) associated with passive smoking in young children, and any competing effect between passive smoking and childcare attendance.


Prospective cohort study of 100 Aboriginal and 180 non-Aboriginal children born in Kalgoorlie Regional Hospital between 1 April 1999 and 31 January 2003. These children underwent routine clinical examinations by an ear, nose and throat specialist up to three times before the age of 2 years, and tympanometry at routine field follow-up visits from the age of 4 months. Childrens' mothers were interviewed at 1-3 weeks postpartum to provide sociodemographic data.


Associations between OM and exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) and childcare attendance.


82 Aboriginal and 157 non-Aboriginal children attended for routine clinical examinations. OM 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 ETS. Exposure to ETS increased the risk of specialist-diagnosed OM in Aboriginal children (OR, 3.54; 95% CI, 1.68-7.47); few attended childcare. Non-Aboriginal children exposed to ETS but not attending childcare were at increased risk of OM (OR, 1.91; 95% CI, 1.07-3.42) while those attending childcare had no increased smoking-related risk. Tympanometry was performed on 87 Aboriginal and 168 non-Aboriginal children; a type B tympanogram (suggesting fluid in the middle ear) was also associated with passive smoking in Aboriginal children.


Reducing the exposure of children to ETS is a public health priority, especially for the Aboriginal population. A smoke-free environment will help reduce the burden of OM.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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