It is common knowledge that smoking has numerous bad effects, both to the smoker and non-smoker who is able to inhale second-degree smoke. More familiar are lung cancer, emphysema and heart failure. However, it is not well known that smoking also affects our ears, and can cause ear infection called Otitis Media.
This ear infection is actually quite common to children. When a child has a virus or a cold, there is a thickening of the mucus on the nose that becomes home to bacteria. The bacteria could travel to the ear canal through the Eustachian tube in the nose. This bacteria could then very well turn into an infection which shows symptoms of fever, fluid on the ear, and earache after a few days. On the average, children experience this 3 times before the age of six. However, if the child is exposed to smoke, say from smoking parents, the average occurrence increases to 8.
Now, how does smoking cause the said infection?
As we are all familiar of, smoke is an irritant to our nasal passage. Since our body is equipped with defense mechanisms, our nasal passage will thicken with mucus in the presence of irritants. As mentioned above, thickened mucus becomes a favorite home to bacteria that could travel and infect our ears. Thus the Otitis Media is triggered by the protective action of our body against cigarette smoke.
Aside from thickening our mucus, cigarette smoke also weakens the immune system. Numerous researchers have proven that exposure to smoke makes the body more susceptible to diseases. Also proven is that this is true not only for actual smokers, but for those who are exposed to exhaled smoke. Thus, even if children, or adults for the matter, do not smoke but are exposed to second-hand smoke, their immune system are still weakened, making it harder to fight off infections.
Now, it is not just the pain and discomfort that this ear infection brings that we must be wary of. Repeated Otitis Media could actually cause gradual loss of hearing to the child. Although this is rare, this is not something that we should risk.
Therefore, for all smokers out there, it important that if you can not stop smoking , at least try to avoid smoking around children . Ear infections may be less evil than lung cancer or emphysema, but since it is children that we are talking about, even the smallest infection should be given much importance.