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Vaccines may decrease stroke risk in sick children

Colds and flu temporarily increase chances for stroke, but vaccines may counteract it.

By
Stephen Feller
The overall risk of stroke in children is low, ranging from 2.6 to 13 cases per 100,000 children per year. Photo by Yuganov Konstantin/Shutterstock
The overall risk of stroke in children is low, ranging from 2.6 to 13 cases per 100,000 children per year. Photo by Yuganov Konstantin/Shutterstock

MINNEAPOLIS, Oct. 2 (UPI) -- Cold, flu and minor infections increase the already small risk of stroke in children, however researchers found the increased risk is mitigated in children who are properly vaccinated.

The higher risk of stroke from illness was short-lived, lasting only about week, researchers found in the new study, published in the journal Neurology.

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"It is possible that changes in the body as a result of these infections, such as inflammation and dehydration, could tip the balance in a child who is already at a higher risk for stroke," Dr. Jose Biller wrote in an editorial published with the study. "Parents should not be alarmed if their child has a cold that it will lead to a stroke."

Researchers at the University of California San Francisco reviewed medical data on 355 children with a median age of 7.6 who had been diagnosed with stroke, comparing them with the records of 354 children with a median age of 9.3 who had not had stroke. In addition to interviews with parents, the researchers specifically looked at whether the children had been exposed to an infection and their vaccine history.

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Based on the data, children who'd had a stroke were 6 times more likely to have been sick the week before. Children with some, a few, or no vaccinations were also 7 times more likely to have a stroke than those who received most or all of their vaccines.

Dr. Heather Fullerton, a researcher at UCSF's Benioff Children's Hospital, said in a press release this study expands on an earlier one that also found vaccines lowered the risk of stroke in children.

"If our results hold up in further studies, controlling infections like colds and flu through hand-washing and vaccines may be a strategy for preventing stroke in children," Fullerton said.

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