It's not true that strokes can occur only in adults. Stroke can also happen in teenagers and even in children and babies. While there are many causes, a latest study shows that the risk for stroke may in increase among children if they suffer infections such as colds and chickenpox.
Stroke is said to be a leading cause of death among children. Yet stroke is different in children and newborns as they are in adults. Strokes in children are more probably due to hemorrhagic strokes than ischemic strokes. More boys affected than girls and the causes are different among children.
There are various risk factors for stroke in children. Risk factors for adults such as irregular heartbeats and atherosclerosis are rare in children. The most common risk factors for children include heart problems, arterial diseases, infection, acute or chronic head and neck problems, blood disorders and sickle-cell disease. In the past ten years, there has been an increase in the incidence stroke within the ages of 15 to 34 years old. This may be due to the fact that the younger population are more prone to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol-related disorders, alcohol use and tobacco use.
Symptoms may be overlooked by parents, caregiver and even health personnel because many people do not think that children may have stroke. Due to this, the child may not have proper treatment. Thus vigilance is a must. Some symptoms of stroke in children include seizures (especially in newborns), sudden or worsening headaches, difficulty of speaking which is sudden with slurring speech, trouble comprehending speech, weakness on one side of the body, sudden loss of vision or abnormal eye movements, trouble walking or loss of balance.
Treatment of stroke in children is dependent on the cause of stroke. Tissue plasminogen activator or tPA may be given in ischemic stroke, a drug which is able to dissolve blood clots. Antithrombotic medications may also be given. Other measures may also be taken, such as supportive care for temperature, proper hydration, normalization of blood sugar levels, control of high blood pressure, detecting and treating seizures and maintaining intracranial pressure. Long-term care may also be taken for long-term effects such as weakness and paralysis on one side of the body, difficulty with speech, trouble swallowing, mood problems, vision problems, problems with memory, cognitive changes, behavioural changes, and personality changes. Long term changes may also include epilepsy, seizures and cerebral palsy. Children however get better easily than adults because their brains may still be growing.
Infections and the Risk for Stroke
A recent study shows that common infections such as colds or chickenpox may place a child at risk for stroke. In this study by researchers from Pediatric Stroke and Cerebrovascular Disease Center at the University of California, San Francisco, it was found out that there was a particularly strong association between stroke and infection which occurred within a week, almost seven-fold. The researchers think that infections act as a trigger for stroke in children who are predisposed to stroke.
The study analyzed data from 310 children who had experienced a stroke, and looked at data from 162 children who had not experienced stroke. The results showed that having infection for less than one week before stroke was linked to a 6.5-higher risk for stroke. The study also found out that the fewer vaccinations a child has, the more he or she was predisposed to stroke. The researchers recommended vaccination against chickenpox not only against the disease but also against childhood stroke, which has more devastating consequences. No other risk factors for stroke were known, except for a recent trauma in the neck or in the head.
If you see signs of stroke in a child, seek medical help immediately. For more news on how to treat and prevent infections, feel free to read our other articles on this site.