Children rarely catch cold or the flu from other children at a doctor's office, a new study reports, and germs in the home are much more likely be the cause of childhood illness.

Researchers say they were "surprised" by the finding, because children just having check-ups often spend time in the same waiting rooms as sick children. "Moreover, this study was performed during the winter months, when the number of sick children in the office tends to be highest," the group of Boston doctors writes in the current New England Journal of Medicine.

Despite that, children visiting a doctor were no more likely to become sick themselves.

Dr. Alan M. Lobovits and several colleagues checked on 127 children for seven days after their visits to a suburban Boston doctors' office and found that 38 caught a bug during that time. In a similar group of 127 children who hadn't seen a doctor, 40 became sick.

The children were between 6 months and 3 years old. The seven-day period was chosen because that covers the incubation periods of all known colds and stomach illnesses, the researchers say.

The study did not measure whether other diseases, such as measles and chicken pox, can be caught in a doctor's office, as other studies have suggested, but the researchers say such transmission is "unusual."

Ironically, after the study was completed, the doctors' office completed a long-planned second waiting room to separate sick from well youngsters, and "the new arrangement has been widely praised by the parents."