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Routine visits to the doctor linked with increased risk of flu for children

Researchers say a visit to the doctor while healthy increases a child's risk of catching the flu.
Posted By Brooks Hays   |   Feb. 12, 2014 at 3:17 PM
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CHICAGO, Feb. 12 (UPI) -- For children, regular checkups with a family physician or pediatrician are encouraged, even if children aren't suffering from any specific problems. But a new study suggests these visits could increase the child's risk of coming down with the flu.

Called well-child visits, health organizations encourage these types of checkups as a way for parents and children to maintain a relationship with their doctor. Well-visits are a chance to measure growth and update vaccinations, and to raise questions and concerns about a patient’s development, behavior, and general well-being -- questions that are sometimes hard to ask when a more urgent sickness is the topic of conversation.

New research shows, however, that an increased risk of flu-like illnesses follows in the wake of a well-child visit.

Doctors at the University of Iowa made the connection after scouring the healthcare trends of 84,595 families collected from 1996 to 2008. Accounting for a long list of variables, researchers determined that for children six and under, a well-child visit increased the probability of a flu-like illness by a little more than three percent.

That may not sound like a lot, but the minimal uptick in risk amounts to more than 700,000 avoidable instances of flu-like illness each year and nearly $500 million medical costs.

"The true cost of flu-like illnesses are much higher since only a fraction result in ambulatory visits and many more cases are likely to result in missed work or school days," Dr. Lisa Saiman wrote in an article accompanying the study.

The study's authors insist that improved hygiene at doctors' offices, clinics and hospitals can mitigate the increased risk, and prevent the majority of these flu-like infections.

The study will appear in the March issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, the journal of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America.

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