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Working pressures increase children attending nursery with respiratory tract infections

Child having its temperature taken

Press release issued: 6 March 2014

Working parents are often caught between the needs of their sick child and their job, which can lead to continued day care use even when their child is ill. New research has found children going to nursery when they are unwell with respiratory tract infections (RTIs) may be an important factor in the spread of these illnesses in the community.

The findings, to be presented today [Thursday 6 March] at the South West Society for Academic Primary Care (SW SPAC) meeting, explored why parents send their children to nursery when they are unwell.

The Parents’ Choices About Daycare (PiCArD) study, funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) School for Primary Care Research (SPCR), interviewed 31 parents about the decisions they make when their children are unwell.  The research team explored parents’ attitudes towards illness, what they currently do if their child is unwell and due to attend nursery, as well as any changes that could affect the decisions they make.

Results from the study showed that parents viewed coughs and colds as less serious and not contagious in the same way as sickness and diarrhoea symptoms.

Dr Fran Carroll, Research Associate in the University of Bristol’s Centre for Academic Primary Care and lead author of the study, said: “Parents are aware that sending their child to nursery when they are unwell is not always the ideal thing to do, but there are often other factors meaning it is not possible to keep their child at home.

“However, there are some changes that nurseries could make which may help parents with their decisions and reduce the spread of infectious illnesses in both children and staff in nursery environments.”

The research found parents made decisions not only based on what the nursery policy was around illness, but also on practical issues such as missing time from work, financial consequences, and the availability of alternative care. 

Parents also named some nursery factors that could be changed to help them keep unwell children at home. These included a reduction in nursery fees if the child cannot attend, being able to swap sessions, and clearer guidance on nursery sickness policies.

The SW SAPC meeting is hosted by the University of Bristol’s Centre for Academic Primary Care on Thursday 6 and Friday 7 March 2014.

Paper: External pressures increase parents' thresholds for sending children with respiratory tract infections to nursery, Fran Carroll, Leila Rooshenas, Hareth Al-Janabi, Amanda Owen-Smith, Sandra Hollinghurst, Alastair Hay.

Further information

The PiCArD study is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) School for Primary Care Research (SPCR).

This paper presents independent research funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).  The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health.

About the Centre of Academic Primary Care
The Centre for Academic Primary Care (CAPC) is one of the leading centres in the UK which form the NIHR School for Primary Care Research. Within the University of Bristol, CAPC is an integral part of the School of Social and Community Medicine, which is an internationally recognised centre of excellence for research and teaching in population health sciences.

CAPC conduct high quality research within a number of themes relating to primary care and general practice and provide teaching throughout the medical undergraduate curriculum. The research and teaching is characterised by a multidisciplinary approach, as staff include academic health professionals, (GPs and nurses), statisticians, social scientists, health economists, and support staff.

About the Society for Academic Primary Care
The Society of Academic Primary Care, SAPC, is made up of researchers, educators and practitioners from a range of disciplines who share a commitment to the development and delivery of primary care. SAPC works closely with stakeholders from across the primary care community to achieve its goal of advancing primary care through education and research.

About the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)
The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is funded by the Department of Health to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. Since its establishment in April 2006, the NIHR has transformed research in the NHS. It has increased the volume of applied health research for the benefit of patients and the public, driven faster translation of basic science discoveries into tangible benefits for patients and the economy, and developed and supported the people who conduct and contribute to applied health research. The NIHR plays a key role in the Government’s strategy for economic growth, attracting investment by the life-sciences industries through its world-class infrastructure for health research. Together, the NIHR people, programmes, centres of excellence and systems represent the most integrated health research system in the world.