When sick kids are banned from child care, many working parents head to emergency rooms

It’s no secret that children get sick. Sometimes, that sickness may be serious and contagious and children should be kept out of schools and child care centers so they don’t spread it to other kids. But often, children have mild illnesses – like an upset stomach or a common cold – and the American Academy of Pediatrics says children like this can safely attend child care settings as they normally would.

But many child care centers exclude children from care due to mild illnesses and require parents to obtain a doctor’s note stating that their child is healthy enough to return to care. So where do working parents turn? According to a study published this week in the journal Pediatrics, many head to emergency rooms and urgent care centers.

The study was part of a National Poll on Children’s Health asking parents of children in child care settings and preschools about their experiences with illness and doctors’ note requirements. When their children were excluded from child care due to illness, many parents took them to a health care provider – and one quarter of them sought care in an emergency room or urgent care setting, not because of a medical emergency, but because they needed a doctor’s note so their child could return to care and they could return to work.

Parents’ willingness to use emergency rooms to get doctors’ notes indicates that there may be a great deal of strain on working parents. In a 2012 NPCH Report, one-third of parents with kids in child care said they were afraid of losing their jobs or losing pay because of their children’s illness. Parents also said that they didn’t have enough paid sick leave to make ends meet. Read the full report: Sick kids, struggling parents.

When kids get sick: concerns among parents with kids in child care

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What do you think?:

Do you find it difficult to manage work when your children are sick? Share your experiences in the comments or on Facebook and Twitter!

Learn more about this topic at the UofMHealth Blog: Balancing child care needs and infectious diseases