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Common infections might increase stroke risk in children

Wednesday February 19, 2014
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Common infections are associated with a significantly higher chance of stroke in children, but routine vaccinations may help decrease the risk, according to preliminary research presented at the American Stroke Association’s international conference in San Diego.

“The protective association of routine vaccination against childhood stroke provides a widely available means of prevention, and this information can easily be dispersed by pediatric healthcare providers,” said Nancy Hills, PhD, MBA, lead researcher and assistant professor of neurology at the University of California, San Francisco, Medical Center.

The international study is a prospective study examining the link between infections and ischemic stroke. Previous research by Hills and co-authors found that minor infections were related to an increased risk, but it was unclear whether infection actually could help predict future stroke.

In the study, researchers found that common infections within the past week were linked to more than six times the risk of stroke, Hills said. Of stroke patients, 17% were reported to have had any minor infection in the prior week, compared with 3% of non-stroke patients. The most frequent types of infection were colds and other upper respiratory infections, with 8% of stroke patients and 2.4% of non-stroke patients reporting an occurrence of these kinds of infections the week before.

However, routine vaccinations were associated with a lower stroke risk. Children who had “some, few or no” routine vaccinations were 6.7 times more likely to have an ischemic stroke than those receiving “all or most” vaccines, including those against polio, measles, mumps, rubella and pneumococcus.

Researchers interviewed parents or guardians of 310 children who'd had a stroke to determine the presence and timing of any infectious illnesses prior to their stroke. They compared their findings with 289 children who had not experienced a stroke but had visited a physician for an annual checkup, routine follow-up for headaches or developmental delay, or trauma.

The median age of the children who had a stroke was 7.5 years, and the median age among the comparison group was slightly more than 8.

“Because many childhood strokes appear to have no clear cause, and others likely have more than one cause, preventive measures have not been forthcoming,” Hills said. “It is very promising that childhood vaccinations appear to have a protective effect.”


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