Smoking during pregnancy triples child meningitis risk
Pregnant women who smoke can triple the risk of child succumbing to a major cause of meningitis, according to scientists.
Several studies have already suggested a link between passive smoking and meningococcal disease.
Scientists at the UK Centre for Tobacco Studies carried out a systematic review of 18 studies and pooled their results to investigate the association.
Their study, published in the online journal BMC Public Health, found that that exposure to second-hand smoke both in the home and womb significantly increases the risk of meningococcal disease.
Passive smoking in the home doubled the risk in children and raised it even further in the under-fives.
For children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy, the risk was three times higher than for children born into 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," Sky News quoted study leader Dr Rachael Murray, from the UK Centre for Tobacco Studies at the University of Nottingham, as saying.
"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," she stated.
Meningococcal bacteria are responsible for the most dangerous form of meningitis and can also invade the blood, lungs or joints.
One in 20 of those struck by invasive meningococcal disease will die despite medical attention and one in six will be left severely disabled.