BACKGROUND: Work-related injuries and illnesses in the educational services sector have not been well studied. This analysis examined whether teachers and other school workers are at higher risk of head/chest cold compared to all other workers in the United States.
METHODS: Seven years (1998-2004) of National Health Interview Survey data on currently employed workers were combined to provide a basis for estimating the incidence proportion of head/chest cold.
RESULTS: The adjusted odds ratio for head/chest cold was significantly elevated for teachers and other workers employed at schools compared to all other workers. When examined by month, an excess of increased head/chest cold risk during the school year suggested that a portion of head/chest cold among teachers and other school workers is attributable to their workplace, perhaps due to close contact with students at school.
CONCLUSION: Head/chest cold, a surrogate for acute respiratory infection, was more common among school workers during the school year and less common during July than for all other workers in the United States. Targeted training for school workers and students may be beneficial to reduce work-related exposure to viruses and bacteria that infect the respiratory system.