In childcare centres, temporary exclusion of ill children, if their illness poses a risk of spread of harmful diseases to others, is a central approach to fight disease transmission. However, not all ill children need to be excluded. Previous studies suggested that childcare centre staff have difficulties in deciding whether or not to exclude an ill child, even when official ill-child guidelines are used. We aimed to describe, quantify and analyse these ambiguities and discuss potential solutions.
For this cross-sectional study, we sent postal surveys to 488 childcare centre directors in the Swiss Canton of Zurich, where no official ill-child guideline is in place. We asked for exclusion criteria for ill children and ambiguities faced when dealing with ill children. We checked whether existing guidelines provided solutions to the ambiguities identified.
249/488 (51%) directors responded to the survey. The most common exclusion criteria were fever (87.4%) and contagiousness (52.2%). Ambiguities were mostly caused by conjunctivitis (23.7%) and use of antipyretic drugs (22.9%). Roughly one third of the ambiguities identified could have been resolved with existing guidelines, another third if existing guidelines contained additional information. For the last third, clear written directives are difficult to formulate.
Written recommendations may help to clarify when an ill child should temporarily be excluded. However, such a guideline should cover the topics antipyretic drugs and teething and have room for modification to local circumstances. Collaboration with a paediatrician may be of additional benefit.