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Common infections, such as a cold or chickenpox, may increase the risk of stroke in children, according to several new studies.
The good news is that stroke in children is still quite rare, and one of the studies found that childhood vaccines appeared to offer some protection against childhood stroke.
“Children who’d had a stroke were most likely to have had a recent infection compared to controls [children without stroke],” said Dr. Heather Fullerton, an author involved with three studies. “There was a particularly strong association for an infection in the week before a stroke, almost a sevenfold increase in the risk of stroke.” The first study found that having an infection less than one week prior to the stroke was linked to a 6.5-fold higher risk of stroke. The most common type of infection reported in this study was an upper respiratory infection.
This study also found that children who had only some, few or none of the recommended childhood vaccines had a 6.7 times higher risk of stroke. Having ever received a measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), polio or pneumococcus vaccine was significantly protective against stroke, according to the study.
These were case-controlled studies looking at people with stroke versus controls — you’re not dealing with the general population. So, it should be noted that although there are strong associations, stroke in children is still a very uncommon thing,” said Dr. Kenneth Bromberg, director of the Vaccine Research Center and chairman of the department of pediatrics at the Brooklyn Hospital Center, in New York City.
“The point of these studies is to better understand stroke, not to alarm the public,” he said.
“Of all the potential risk factors they mentioned, the one we really have control over is chickenpox, and I recommend the chickenpox vaccine for protection against chickenpox, and to get increased protection against an uncommon thing — childhood stroke
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