BABIES exposed to second-hand smoke otherwise known as passive smoking during pregnancy are at increased risk of developing meningitis and other invasive meningococcal diseases.
Two researchers, Drs. Rachael Murray and 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 new study, published in “Public Health” – a journal of the BioMed Central – shows that second hand smoke and fetal exposure as a result of maternal smoking during pregnancy, significantly increases the risk of invasive meningococcal disease.
Invasive meningococcal disease, a major cause of bacterial meningitis, is particularly prevalent in children and young adults, and nearly 1in 20 affected individuals die despite medical attention.
At least 18 percent of affected babies are left with a severe disability, including neurological and behavioural disorders.
The results showed that being exposed to second-hand smoke at home doubles the risk of invasive meningococcal disease.
For children under five the risk is 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
“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,” Murray explained.
While the researchers cannot be sure exactly how tobacco smoke is affecting the children, their findings highlight consistent evidence of the further harms of smoking around children and during pregnancy. They warned parents and family members to desist from smoking in thehome or around children