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Top 10 Reasons Kids Go to the Doctor

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Mom•Logic friend Dr. Gwenn helps us answer the question: "Do our kids get sick more than most?"


Dr. Gwenn says: "Many parents wonder what brings kids into the pediatrician's office. They sometimes feel their kids have a disproportionate amount of illnesses compared to other children. Lists like this help to reassure all of us that our kids are in the ball park of other kids.

Here's the rundown of the list of "why kids visit the doctor":

1. Routine child health exam: 22.9%
2. Otitis media (i.e. ear infections): 6.6%
3. Acute upper respiratory infection: (i.e. the common cold) 4.6 %
4. Acute pharyngitis (i.e. sore throats): 3.4%
5. Attention-deficit disorder: 3.2%
6. Asthma: 2.8%
7. Chronic sinusitis: 2.4 %
8. Vaccine for bacterial disease: 2.3%
9. Streptococcal sore throat: 1.9%
10. Allergic rhinitis (i.e.hayfever, "allergies"): 1.9%

A few observations can be gleaned from this list. First, note that ear pain and colds top the list of sick visits. This is no surprise, and they are related. Most illnesses kids get are in the upper respiratory tree of the body, and that includes the ears, which can get congested easily in young kids. Kids get 6-12 illnesses a year, mostly viral, and colds and ear infections clearly take the lion's share of this bunch.

Second, note that general sore throats are much more common than strep sore throats. This means that for all the times your child complains of sore throats, your child will test negative for strep more than your child will test positive. This translates into most sore throats being viral and not needing antibiotics.

Note that "acute sinusitis" is not listed. This is for a number of reasons. First, it is very rare in childhood. And, second, it is really a problem that does not even creep into the discussion until a child becomes a teen or adult. In other words, most of us pediatricians do not consider "sinusitis" a childhood disease. Green discharge from the nose alone is not an indicator of much. True sinus disease needs many more symptoms.

Similarly, note that "bronchitis" is not listed. Again, just not a condition that is considered a true childhood problem, so not one that is "common" in terms of the final outcome of a pediatric visit.

Seasonal allergies are most certainly very common, and I'm not surprised that diagnosis is in the top 10. Even without a family history or without a prior history in a child, many kids develop hayfever and allergic symptoms and end up needing treatment. My hurdle on the treating end is usually having trouble convincing the parents that allergies are occurring, but that is a post for a different time. For now, suffice it to say that if your child has a "cold that won't go away" or "lasts for weeks," it is not a cold but allergies. Colds go away after a few days to a week. Allergies, however, come and go as seasons and allergies rise and fall—indoors and outdoors. I wrote about this recently over at A Dose of Dr. Gwenn if you want to learn more.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not give a quick mention to asthma and ADD. Both are very common and both are difficult to manage at times. If your children have either of these, you are clearly in good company given this list. This list can also give some reassurance to your kids that they are not alone, which will become very important as they get older and more aware of their chronic conditions. I'll post more about these conditions later. They each deserve their own space given their role in many kids' lives.

So, that's the basic run down for now. It will be interesting to see how 2008 shapes up for pediatric visits. Likely the list will be very, very similar."

For more from Dr. Gwenn click here.

next: What Your School is Hiding From You
1 comments so far | Post a comment now
cna certification February 9, 2011, 2:15 AM

Can I get updates via email?

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