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Study confirms an age-old suspicion: The doctor’s office can make you sick

For pediatricians, August and September mean a waiting room filled with children needing their school forms completed. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

WASHINGTON — Parents have all had the sneaking suspicion when, just days after going to see the pediatrician, their kid gets the sniffles. A new study confirms it’s not just in their head: Kids are more likely to get sick after visiting the doctor.

“Sometimes it takes a study like this to confirm what we already know,” says Dr. Nadia Hashimi  a pediatrician at Children’s National Medical Center.

Dr. Hashimi sees dozens of kids a week, so she says she’s not surprised the recently published study found kids are at an increased risk for flu-like symptoms for up to two weeks after a doctor’s appointment.

“The best place for children to get sick is anywhere where there are other children, like a mall area, like a pediatrician’s office, like a hospital … or in a day care setting,” she says.

The study, published in the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, looked at findings from 84,595 families who participated in the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s Medical Expenditure Panel Survey between 1996 and 2008.

Looking at variables such as insurance and their interaction with other kids, researchers concluded that children under 6 years old going to the doctor for an annual appointment experienced flu-like symptoms with a 3.2 percent higher probability.

The kids exhibited symptoms up to two weeks after their appointment. Researchers found the children’s relatives also had a better chance of getting sick.

While she doesn’t encourage parents to take their child’s illness lightly, Hashimi says young kids getting virus after virus is normal, especially at this time of the year.

“That’s what we reinforce with parents — these are not tragic illnesses. This is part of life. We all grew up getting colds and viral symptoms. If your nose is running, it’s not the end of the world,” she says.

That said, hand washing is a parent’s best bet for preventing bugs.

“Little kids are notorious for not being very good hand washers, and that lack of hygiene, obviously, it’s a great place for germs to spread. Wash their hands. The best thing is to instill in them that it’s important to wash their hands,” she says.

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