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Exposure to tobacco smoke in the home increases childhood illnesses, health care demand

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BALTIMORE, MD – Children who live with smokers end up in the doctor's office or hospital more often than those not exposed to tobacco smoke, according to new research being presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies 2016 Meeting.

For the research abstract, "Tobacco Smoke Exposure and Health Care Utilization among Children Nationwide," researchers analyzed 2011-2012 data from the National Survey on Children's Health, which is conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease and Control Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics. They looked at patterns of health care utilization among children ranging in age from newborn to 17 who were living with smokers compared with those who not exposed to tobacco smoke at home.

Results showed a total of 24 percent of the 95,677 children in the study, corresponding to a weighted total of 17.6 million children across the United States, lived with smokers. About 5 percent of the children lived with someone who smokes inside the home, equivalent to a weighted sum of 3.6 million U.S. children.

Researchers said that children who lived with a smoker or who had exposure to tobacco smoke inside the home were significantly more likely to have had any medical care visit, including sick care. At the same time, researchers said, they were considerably less likely to have had any dental care visits.

Lead author Ashley Merianos, PhD, a certified health education specialist and assistant professor in the School of Human Services at the University of Cincinnati, said several previous studies already established that tobacco smoke causes physical health consequences in children, including respiratory symptoms, increased infections and asthma flare-ups. Fewer studies had examined whether tobacco smoke exposure translates into more frequent pediatric health care visits.

"Our findings indicate that tobacco smoke exposure has a significant impact on demand for health care services," Dr. Merianos said. "Settings with a high volume of children exposed to tobacco smoke at home, including pediatric emergency departments, could serve as effective outlets for health messages to inform caregivers about the dangers of smoking around children and help decrease these potentially preventable tobacco smoke exposure-related visits and associated costs," she said.

Exposure to tobacco smoke in the home

Dr. Merianos will present an abstract of the study, "Tobacco Smoke Exposure and Health Care Utilization among Children Nationwide," at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 30, in Exhibit Hall F of the Baltimore Convention Center. This study was funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health/Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. To view the abstract, visit http://www.abstracts2view.com/pas/view.php?nu=PAS16L1_1498.392.

Please note: only the abstract is being presented at the meeting. In some cases, the researcher may have more data available to share with media, or may be preparing a longer article for submission to a journal. Contact the researcher for more information.

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The Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) Meeting brings together thousands of individuals united by a common mission: to improve child health and wellbeing worldwide. This international gathering includes pediatric researchers, leaders in academic pediatrics, experts in child health, and practitioners. The PAS Meeting is produced through a partnership of four organizations leading the advancement of pediatric research and child advocacy: Academic Pediatric Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Pediatric Society, and Society for Pediatric Research. For more information, visit the PAS Meeting online at http://www.pas-meeting.org, follow us on Twitter @PASMeeting and #PASMeeting, or like us on Facebook.

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