The dangers of second-hand smoke (passive smoking) on children continue to become ever more apparent. A new study published in BioMed Central's open access journal BMC Public Health shows that second hand smoke and fetal exposure due to maternal smoking while pregnant significantly increase the risk of invasive meningococcal disease.
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. 1 in 6 will be left with a severe disability, including neurological and behavioural disorders.
Several studies suggest that exposure to second hand smoke (passive smoking) may be involved in meningococcal disease. Researchers Dr Rachael Murray and Dr Jo Leonardi-Bee from the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies, University of Nottingham performed a systematic review of 18 studies which all looked at the effects of passive smoking on the risk of invasive meningococcal disease in children.
The results showed that being exposed to second-hand smoke at home doubled the risk of invasive meningococcal disease. For children under five this risk was even 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
Translating these results Rachael Murray explained, "We estimate that an extra 630 cases of childhood invasive meningococcal disease every year are directly attributable to second hand smoke in the UK alone. While we cannot be sure exactly how tobacco smoke is affecting these children, the findings from this study highlight consistent evidence of the further harms of smoking around children and during pregnancy, and thus parents and family members should be encouraged to not smoke in the home or around children.
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