Children in child care are frequently unnecessarily excluded for illness. We investigated parental use of urgent medical evaluation for sick children unable to attend child care.
In May 2012, authors conducted a nationally representative survey of parents, who completed online questions regarding child illness causing absence from child care and their medical care-seeking behavior. Main outcome was parents’ use of emergency department or urgent care (ED/UC).
Overall survey participation rate was 62%. Of participating parent cohort with children 0 to 5 years old, 57% (n = 357) required child care, of which 84% (n = 303) required out-of-home child care. Over 88% of parents sought acute medical care for their sick children unable to attend child care. Approximately one-third of parents needed a doctor’s note for employers and/or child care. Parents sought medical evaluation (>1 option possible) from primary care (81%), UC (26%), or ED (25%). ED/UC use was most common for rash (21%) and fever (15%). Logistic regression indicated ED/UC use was significantly higher among single/divorced parents (odds ratio [OR] = 4.3; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 2.5–13.5); African American parents (OR = 4.2; 95% CI: 1.2–14.6); parents needing a doctor’s note (OR = 4.2; 95% CI: 1.5–11.7); and those with job concerns (OR = 3.4; 95% CI: 1.2–9.7).
A substantial proportion of parents whose sick children cannot attend child care seek care in ED/UC. Training child care professionals regarding appropriate illness exclusions may decrease ED/UC visits by lowering child care exclusions.