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Colds May Temporarily Increase Stroke Risk in Children


A new study suggests that colds and other minor infections may temporarily increase stroke risk in children. The study is published in the August 20, 2014, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

“While the study does show an increased risk, the overall risk of stroke among children is still extremely low,” said Lars Marquardt, MD, DPhil, of the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany, who wrote a corresponding editorial. “Minor infections are very common in children while strokes are thankfully very rare. Parents should not be alarmed whatsoever if a child catches a simple cold.” 

For the study, researchers reviewed a Kaiser Permanente database of 2.5 million children. Of those, the scientists identified 102 children who had an ischemic stroke without a major infection associated and compared them with 306 children without stroke.

The children’s medical records were reviewed for minor infections up to two years before the stroke. About 80 percent of the infections were respiratory. 

The study found that the risk of stroke was increased only within a three-day time frame between doctors’ visits for signs of infection and stroke. A total of 10 of the 102 children who had a stroke had a doctor visit for an infection within three days of the stroke, or 9.8 percent, while only two of the 306 control participants, or 0.7 percent, had an infection during the same time period.

The children who had strokes were 12 times more likely to have had an infection within the previous three days than the children without strokes. The total number of infections over a two-year period was not associated with increased stroke risk. 

“These findings suggest that infection has a strong but short-lived effect on stroke risk,” said study author Heather J. Fullerton, MD, MAS, with UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco. “We’ve seen this increase in stroke risk from infection in adults, but until now, an association has not been studied in children. It is possible that inflammatory conditions contribute more to the stroke risk in children, however, further research is needed to explore this possible association.” 

The study was supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.  

To learn more about stroke, please visit  

The American Academy of Neurology, an association of 28,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, migraine, multiple sclerosis, brain injury, Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy. 

For more information about the American Academy of Neurology, visit or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube.

Rachel L. Seroka | American Academy of Neurology

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