by Tyler J. Arsenault B.Sc (Nutrition)

New(ish) research published in the March 2014 issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology found that regularly scheduled visits to family doctors for children (called well-child appointments) for things such as annual exams and vaccinations are associated with an increased risk of flu-like illness in children and family members within two weeks of the visit; translating to more than 700,000 illnesses each year at a cost of nearly $500 million annually (in the US).

Now before anyone starts jumping on the cause-effect bandwagon (especially for vaccines), it’s important to note that this is only correlative data (meaning no cause-effect relationship can easily be proven), and the illnesses occur in parents as well which seems to point to the spreading of infectious disease, not unlike going to a hospital for a broken arm and leaving with and MRSA infection or C-diff.

Flu jab by NHS Employers licensed under CC BY 2.0

The study examined over 80,000 families from periods between 1996 – 2008 and using careful controls for other variables found a high risk in children under six years of age and an increased probability of flu-like illness of about 3%.

Moral of the story? Do what we do when we make a trip to the hospital or family doctor – employ microbiology 101. Have firm rules in place about not touching anything with mouth or hands, make liberal use of hand sanitizer, wash any “things” that are brought along and make contact with any surface such as toys, soothers, “blankies” etc and even go to lengths to sterilize them in boiling water (or hydrogen peroxide / alcohol etc). When we get home, we immediately change into clean clothes and put the old ones into the laundry hamper, and we’re even mindful of where we put any pamphlets or other “objects” that we received from the doctor’s office.  

There is a time and a place for visiting the doctor's office; just make sure you don't trade a minor illness for something worse; take those precautions.  Better yet, if you're interested in a proactive well-child visit to prevent disease and promote health (as opposed to reactive) consider a visit to your naturopathic doctor's office where germs are statistically far less common.  

While products like carvracol, berberine, and pure allicin can go a long way in killing bugs, a good mental awareness mixed with a little hygiene and sanitation is even better. I’m not saying you should become a germ-a-phobe; just exercise caution when you’re around the dangerous ones.

1. Jacob E. Simmering, Linnea A. Polgreen, Joseph E. Cavanaugh, Philip M. Polgreen. Are Well-Child Visits a Risk Factor for Subsequent Influenza-Like Illness Visits? Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, 2014; 35 (3): 251 DOI:10.1086/675281