Day Cares Send Sick Kids Home Too Quickly, Study Says

Filed under: In The News, Research Reveals: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Education: Big Kids, Research Reveals: Big Kids, Research Reveals: Tweens

Too sick for day care? Credit: Getty

You're crashing in on a deadline at work or in the middle of an intense conversation over lunch when the phone rings: It's the day care center calling to say your child is sick and needs to be picked up immediately, and you drop everything to rush out of the room to go get him. But a new
study now says you probably didn't need to act so fast.

Researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin and the Mayo Clinic presented more than 300 child care center directors with five scenarios featuring children who weren't acting sick but had the symptoms of mild illnesses, including a cold, pink eye, a mild stomach flu, fever and a ringworm of the scalp, and asked if the child should be sent home. In more than half of the cases -- 57 percent -- the directors would have sent the child home, according to the study, published in the May issue of Pediatrics.

The thing is, according to guidelines from both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Public Health Association, none of those cases warranted exclusion from group care, but 62 percent of the directors were unfamiliar with the guidelines.

"It appears that just endorsing them or having them as a guideline at the state level is not enough," the study's lead author, Dr. Andrew Hashikawa, tells ParentDish. "We need to incorporate training in addition to that."

A child being sent home places a significant economic burden not only on the child's parents but also on businesses and health care facilities. In 2005, more than two-thirds of children under the age of 5 were cared for by someone other than their parents, and most of those were in child care, the article says.

For parents worried that kids with runny noses or mild diarrhea will spread whatever illness they may have, "by the time you're seeing those symptoms they've already spread it," Hashikawa says. However, he adds, a child who isn't feeling well enough to participate should be sent home.

The rate of incorrect responses varied according to the situation, with only 8 percent of directors unnecessarily excluding a child with a cold, but 84 percent of directors doing so for a child with a scalp infection. Directors who had more experience, ran larger centers or worked in areas where more women are heads of households excluded fewer children unnecessarily, the study reports.

Related: Kids In Day Care Not Active Enough, Study Says

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.