Sick Kids

Reporter: Andrea Burns

For the whole of last year, working mum Susan Cohen had a standing doctors' appointment every Monday for her twin boys, Nicholas and Jacob. Runny noses, glue ear, colds. And new research shows one in five West Australian are ... what's more, kids are needing to be admitted for treatment. More than fifty thousand children aged two - like the Cohen twins - and younger, were hospitalised every year between 1990 and the year 2000, as a result of infection.

Dr Deborah Lehmann from the Telethon Institute of Child Research conducted the study - the biggest undertaken. "We didn't realise that one in five non-aboriginal children get admitted to hospital for an infection 7.18 and I think generally people are surprised that infection is such an important burden of disease in children under the age of 2 years"

Conditions requiring hospitalisation

Respiratory infections -bronchiolitis

- pneumonia

- otitis media

Gastroenteritis

The most common conditions, requiring hospitalisation included respiratory infections such as bronchiolitis, pneumonia and otitis media - or ear infections, and gastroenteritis. Conditions that kill in the third world. What the study didn't investigate was why. Experts can only speculate, but say kids socialising more often - and earlier , including at daycare might be one reason.

Suzie says "we were worried about it, we hadn't had our kids sick for a year up to that point and obviously we put them into daycare and they're sick all the time which makes you think maybe we shouldn't be going there" Susan says her doctor convinced her otherwise. "He said I'll either see them this year when they start daycare or I'll see them when they start school when they're 5 or 6 and invariably, if I see them when they start school they get sicker for longer than if I see them now, they build up some resistance to it and then they're not going to be sick anymore and sure enough it was uncanny , they turned 2 and we haven't had a day off day care since"

Dr Lehman says other reasons for hospitalisation might include medical advances allowing doctors to better identify infections. And a decrease in the number of doctors bulk billing could be another cause. "If they're not going to their GP and they're being seen in the emergency department, then they may be more likely to get admitted to hospital"

"One of the reasons children get a lot of infections older people don't is simply because they're being exposed to them for the first time" PMH Emergency doctor Garry Geelhold says in the past, bigger families would have meant littlies would have been infected by older siblings. He doesn't think the findings mean children should avoid daycare. But he does say give parents these tips.

* Get children immunised

* Keep sick kids home. Keeping them away from the public - out of playgroup, daycare and school prevents the sprad of infection.

* Wash hands regularly

* Practice good hygiene.

* And if they're sick, do see a doctor.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Immunise

Keep sick kids home

Wash hands regularly

Practice good hygiene

See a doctor