One-third of parents with young children say they're worried about losing jobs or facing pay cuts when they must watch their sick children at home, according to the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health by the University of Michigan.
Roughly two-thirds of respondents say their children couldn't be admitted to their childcare services because of illnesses in the past year while nearly one-half of respondents report missing work in that same time period to care for sick kids.
Another one-quarter of respondents say they have missed work at least three times because of this, and one-half of respondents say finding alternative or back-up care is challenging. Meanwhile, 31 percent of respondents report not having enough paid leave for the days that require them to stay home with their sick children.
"The results of this poll clearly indicate that illnesses that lead to exclusions from child care are a substantial problem for working parents," says Dr. Andrew Hashikawa, clinical lecturer in pediatric emergency medicine at C.S. Mott Children's Hospital. "Improving employee benefits related to paid sick leave appears to be important for many parents. More supportive sick leave policies would allow parents to care for their sick children at home or give parents the opportunity to go to their child's usual health care provider instead of the emergency room."
The poll also finds that 8 percent of respondents believe it is more convenient to attain care for their sick children at emergency rooms rather than at their primary-care doctors.
"Parents may also feel that they don't have any other option but the emergency department if they want to have their children checked out after standard office hours and get them back to childcare the next day," Hashikawa says.
Children are more likely to have greater incidents of colds and runny noses, and many childcare providers do not all sick children unless they have a doctor's note, take antibiotics or see improving symptoms.
However, the guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatrics and American Public Health Association state that all well-appearing children with runny noses or colds require home care. Colds are often spread prior to any symptoms; thus, turning away those children from child care does not necessarily lessen the spread of illnesses.
"Training childcare providers to make safe and appropriate rules about when kids have to stay home could greatly reduce the burden on families," says Dr. Matthew M. Davis, M.A.P.P., director of the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health. "According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, an estimated 40 million workers in the United States lack paid sick leave benefits. We hope these latest poll results will spur national discussion about the importance of providing workers with the tools they need to be productive but also care for their little ones when they are not feeling well."