Another Reason For Kids to Cover Their Mouths: Pediatric Stroke Risk

Another Reason For Kids to Cover Their Mouths: Pediatric Stroke Risk

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As if parents don’t already have enough concerns with the growing Enterovirus D68 outbreak and the approaching flu season, researchers have found another worry to add to the heap: pediatric stroke. The study, published in the journal Neurology in early September, found that, for some children, colds and other minor infections could increase the risk of strokes, at least temporarily.

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“For parents of healthy children, this is not very important news,” lead study author Heather Fullerton, medical director of the Pediatric Brain Center at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco, told Yahoo Health. “It is important for parents of children who are otherwise at risk — those with sickle-cell anemia or congenital heart disease, for example.” She added that, while “we’ve seen this increase in stroke risk from infection in adults, until now, an association has not been studied in children.”

Fullerton and her colleagues used the Kaiser Permanente data of 2.5 million children. They compared medical records of 102 children who had suffered an ischemic stroke, meaning one caused by an obstruction in the blood vessels that supply the brain with blood, to those of 306 children who had not suffered a stroke. Then they looked at whether children had also been affected by a minor infection in the two years leading up to their stroke.

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In all, children who suffered a stroke were 12 times more likely to have had an infection within the previous three days.

“The thinking behind it is that the infection triggers an inflammatory effect, which can make the blood more prone to clotting,” Fullerton said. “The inflammatory chemistry can also affect the blood vessel lining, which can become diseased and narrowed and possibly trigger the stroke.”

If nothing else, she added, the study represents “another one of the many examples of why it’s so important to try and prevent the spread of infection and to maintain good hygiene.” So what’s a nervous parent to do? Get kids vaccinated, become vigilant about getting your little one to wash hands and cover mouths when sneezing and coughing, and do everyone a favor by keeping them home from school when they’re sick.

“It’s especially important to help prevent stroke in someone who is otherwise predisposed,” Fullerton noted.

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