Day care sends sick kids home unnecessarily: study

NEW YORK Mon Apr 19, 2010 11:51am EDT

Related Topics

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Child care centers are too prone to send toddlers home for mild illnesses, doctors say.

In a new survey of centers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, directors said they would exclude kids more than half the time for minor ailments such as pink eye, ringworm or mild fever.

This is medically unnecessary and runs counter to long-standing professional guidelines, the researchers say.

By the time kids have symptoms, they've already been contagious, and "they've already done the damage," Dr. Andrew N. Hashikawa of the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee told Reuters Health. "It doesn't do any good to send these kids home."

He added that exclusion is "a significant burden for parents," who may be forced to take unpaid sick leave or scramble to find an alternative.

The findings square with earlier surveys from states that don't back the medical guidelines, first issued in 1992 by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Public Health Association. But Wisconsin endorsed the guidelines more than a decade ago, the researchers said in the journal Pediatrics.

For their survey, Hashikawa and colleagues interviewed 305 child care center directors. They presented them with five different scenarios in which a toddler had mild illness and asked what action the directors would take.

In each scenario -- a kid with a cold, a light fever, pink eye, ringworm, or loose stools -- the guideline recommendation was the same: No need to send the toddler home right away.

However, almost one-third of the directors chose to exclude the kid in four or all five of the cases. Overall, they ended up sending 57 percent of kids home unnecessarily.

"There are conditions where you'd obviously send a kid home," said Hashikawa. But, he added, "We found that oftentimes they are sent home when they really don't need to be."

Only a minority of center directors turned out to be familiar with the guidelines. "Directors have a tough job, they are working hard," said Hashikawa, "I think they just need more training."

Calvin Moore, Jr., president of the National Association for Family Child Care, which represents about 8000 centers across the country, agreed.

"We need more training and more technical assistance, and it should be part of the licensing requirements in each state," he said.

SOURCE: Pediatrics, online April 19, 2010. Link here

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see
Comments (12)
mgohil wrote:
I’d rather send my kids to the directors that err on the side of caution (i.e. sending the kids home unneccesarily) as opposed to the ones that might dismiss what appear to be minor symptoms only to end up causing widespread death and destruction among the classmates of my child.

Any child, regardless of how sick they are, MUST get sent home if they are sick.

What if it were polio? Or worse, ebola, or some disease that starts with mild symptoms?

Apr 19, 2010 2:16am EDT  --  Report as abuse
tij wrote:
Hashikawa probably NEVER had a child in daycare. Daycares are breeding grounds for viruses and bacteria. Children at risk in daycares constantly have ear infections, etc. There are also children who go to daycares PART-TIME and not 5 days a week. So if you continue to have a SICK child in the daycare then it will just pass on the virus to the children who are there part-time for which they could have avoided the virus TOTALLY. These government people just want to change everything. First, the pap smear is not annual anymore. Then the mammogram is not annual anymore. What in the world is going on? Do these male doctors hate women and children?

Apr 19, 2010 2:36am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Sending a sick child home is an easy way to avoid transmitting contagious diseases. Sending a well child home because of fear of infection is not scientifically valid. Caregivers need to be trained better. In doubt, I think erring on the side of safety would be prudent, but maybe the parents should not pay for that day.

Apr 19, 2010 2:39am EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.