Germs Germs Germs
In the time that my children attended childcare, my family caught gastroenteritis twice, influenza once, a few colds, hand-foot-and-mouth disease, school sores and chicken pox.
Once the kids contracted the next illness, it was only a matter of days before we (the parents) would also get sick. It honestly felt like we were sick for pretty well the whole year. My kids were fully up-to-date on the vaccine register and we even got the flu vaccine for that year, but it didn't seem to help.
To add insult to injury, the childcare bills kept rolling in regardless of whether the kids were in attendance or not. We refused to send the kids to the centre as soon as they had another illness, but this meant ever more days away from work to look after them. Eventually we used up all of our respective sick leaves, even having to take unpaid leave by the end of the year. This journey into the world of childcare germs turned out to be a very expensive venture in so many different ways.
Once we got our first au pair and removed the children from childcare, the illnesses seemed to magically stop. We suddenly realised that constant sickness wasn't a necessary evil of the preschool years.
Our experience was hardly unique. The Australian Government's Department of Health website states that:
The majority of research on infectious diseases in children using care... suggests that children in preschool or long day care suffer more frequent infections and more days of illness than those cared for at home or in family day care.
An Australian peer-reviewed study in 2013 determined the average costs per family as a result of each childcare contracted illness:
The mean cost of the 124 ILIs [Influenza Like Illnesses] was $626 with a median cost of $321. Of the mean ILI cost, AU$406 (65%) was due to carer time off work, AU$102 (16%) was generated by healthcare visits and AU$118 (19%) was due to other items, such as medications and missed childcare attendance.
Researchers have even quantified how much more likely children in childcare are likely to get sick compared to those who are cared for at home:
Wald et al reported that children attending centres had 51 per cent more episodes of infection, and 134 per cent more days of illness than children cared for at home. Another study found that Swedish children in child care required 40 - 80 per cent more medical consultations for acute infections than did children who remained at home.
Of course, the constant illnesses picked up from the childcare centre wasn't the primary reason why we chose to start using au pairs, but it is an interesting factor to consider...