TUESDAY, Dec. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Teens are almost two times more likely to get ear infections if there's a smoker in their household, Harvard researchers report.

Researchers examined data collected from 90,961 American families between April 2007 and July 2008. They found that children ages 12 to 17 who live in homes with smokers are 1.67 times more prone to recurrent ear infections than adolescents who live in smoke-free homes.

"Overall, we found that the proportion of households that use tobacco products is the same across all age groups, but family members are increasingly more likely to smoke indoors as their children become preteens and teenagers," lead author Summer Hawkins said in a Center for Advancing Health news release.

"The reason why secondhand smoke may cause ear infections is not known completely, but secondhand smoke is an irritant and that may increase children's and adolescents' susceptibility to ear infections," she added.

Hawkins and her colleagues said doctors should do more to educate parents about the danger that secondhand smoke poses to children.

"Parents and health care providers need to work together to create a smoke-free environment for their children. Providers should ask parents about tobacco use during clinic visits. Parents can reduce children's exposure to secondhand smoke by prohibiting smoking inside the home," Hawkins said.

The study is published online Dec. 7 in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about secondhand smoke and children.