Working mums feel the strain of sick children

Caring for sick children is contributing to stress in the workplace and an ‘after hours’ catch up culture in parents according to a new study by the Hygiene Council. Half of parents find juggling work and a sick child difficult to manage, yet few realise that simple hygiene measures such as hand washing and surface disinfection can help to reduce the risk of picking up an infection and hence reduce the burden on them.

The survey of 1,000 parents of children under six, found that despite 48% of children being ill with coughs, colds and stomach bugs at least three times a year, an astonishing 62% of parents have no back up childcare plan when their child is ill. As a consequence, nearly half of parents (48%) have to take a day off work, while 12% admit to sending their child to childcare or school regardless of their illness.

Although just over half (55%) of bosses are understanding of the need to take time off to look after sick children, a further third make the inconvenience known and a just under one in ten bosses (8%) are judged to be very unsympathetic and challenging. More than a quarter (28%) of those surveyed said that their child being ill causes additional stress and pressure to catch up out of work hours.

With the added strain of sickness, parents are changing their behaviour both in and out of the home. 80% say they would change their hygiene habits in the home if it meant their children getting ill less frequently. While 36% claim to go out of their way to avoid people or places to reduce the chance of their child becoming ill.

Despite the fact that increasing hygiene habits in the home such as washing hands and disinfecting surfaces has been scientifically shown to reduce the number of infections there seems to be some confusion amongst parents about what constitutes ‘too clean’.

Dr Lisa Ackerley, from the Hygiene Council comments, “As a parent I know all too well that taking unplanned time off work to look after your sick child can be a nightmare, however there is something you can do. Teach your child good hygiene habits from an early age and follow good hygiene practices at home to help limit the spread of infection and illness.”

Nearly three quarters (72%) of parents agreed with the concept that a home that is too clean can be bad for their family’s immune system and general health.

Here are some top tips from the Hygiene Council for a healthy home and family:

  • Encourage children to start washing their hands from an early age
  • Ensure your child knows when to wash their hands: before eating and before any cookery activities, after using the toilet, playing outside in the playground and after coughing, sneezing or blowing their nose
  • Ensure children are washing all of their hands, including the hard to reach spots like in between their fingers
  • Timing counts, so make sure they are washing their hands for long enough, try singing ‘Happy Birthday twice, so they know how long they need to clean their hands for
  • Make hand washing into a game for your child to ensure they are encouraged to keep doing it
  • Good home hygiene habits are essential and regular cleaning and ‘targeted disinfection’ of all surfaces that are regularly touched such as door handles, taps, switches and bin lids can help to reduce the spread of germs around the home
  • Ensuring your child’s high chair and place where they eat at the table are kept clean and disinfected is very important

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