Study sheds light on why babies need GP care, hospital trips during their first year of life

Infections are the main reason why babies see a doctor or visit an emergency department in the first year of life, a new study has found.

The Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) study found nearly three quarters of Australian babies visited a GP and 10.4 per cent infants attended the emergency department for an infection, with respiratory illnesses the most common cause.

The institute’s Dr Rebecca Rowland said few studies have been able to establish such clarity.

She said the data could inform public health prevention strategies, planning and resource allocation.

“Infant infections place significant burden on primary health care,” she said.

“Quantifying this burden in the Australian setting and understanding the associated factors can help target resources and prevention efforts.”

Dr Rowland said the study found maternal antibiotic exposure in pregnancy, having older siblings, attending childcare, and reduced rates of breastfeeding were associated with infant infections.

On average, babies with siblings aged two to six years had more overall infections.