Researchers Dr. Rachael Murray and Dr. Jo Leonardi-Bee of the U.K. Centre for Tobacco Control Studies, University of Nottingham, performed a systematic review of 18 studies on the effects of passive smoking on the risk of invasive meningococcal disease in children.
Invasive meningococcal disease -- a major cause of bacterial meningitis -- can also cause severe illness when bacteria, such as Neisseria meningitidi, invade the blood, lungs or joints.
Menigococcal disease is particularly prevalent in children and young adults, and nearly 1-in-20 affected individuals will die despite medical attention, while 1-in-6 will be left with a severe disability, including neurological and behavioral disorders, the researchers said.
The study, published in the journal BMC Public Health, showed being exposed to secondhand smoke at home doubled the risk of invasive meningococcal disease. For children age 5 and under the risk was higher, and for children born to mothers who smoked during pregnancy the risk increased to three times that of children born to non-smoking households, the study said.
"We estimate that an extra 630 cases of childhood invasive meningococcal disease every year are directly attributable to second hand smoke in Britain alone," Murray said.