Statistics on kids and germs needed, stat.
December 3, 2006 1:10 PM   Subscribe

Looking for statistics on kids and germs. I'd love to see some from a recent study on workplace absenteeism -- i.e., people with kids in daycare (or school) have X% absences more or less from work than people without kids. Even daycare- or school-worker health stats would be helpful. Specific studies, anyone?

Any other stats regarding kids + germs could be useful, too.

Please don't just point me to -- I need actual stats and am having a hard time finding what I want. Most of the occupational stuff I find is focused on workplace fatalities.

U.S. stats are preferred but other countries/populations may also be useful.
posted by mdiskin to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Will anecdotal evidence do? =) The first winter my son was in daycare was the sickest year in my living memory. Unsure if I had a hugely high level of absenteeism, but by gods I swear I had a sore throat or runny nose more often that not.
posted by pivotal at 1:52 PM on December 3, 2006

This feels like truth, but I do need it in "official" form.

But really -- any kid + germ info is helpful. Anyone else?
posted by mdiskin at 2:12 PM on December 3, 2006

It might help if we knew the question behind the question. What are you trying to demonstrate? There's a fair bit of work in this area in the public health and economics literature, but having more details about what you're getting at might make it easier to find the appropriate studies.
posted by j-dawg at 2:24 PM on December 3, 2006

Even if you can prove that workers with kids have more absences from work then people without kids, this doesn't prove that disease or germs are the cause of the absenteeism. It seems quite likely that workers with kids would need to take off from work due to other factors related to their kids besides just illness--people with kids may also be more stressed and need more mental health days, etc...
posted by zachlipton at 2:27 PM on December 3, 2006

I also found that I (childless) had to take more sick days the year that all my co-workers' kids started school or daycare (we had a bunch of babies born almost simultaneously), because (I assume) the parents were bringing in more new germs that were making the entire office sick. And it's likely that I took more sick time than the parents did, since they had more reason to save it up and use it when their own kids were sick rather than "waste it" on themselves.

Just another argument why studies on such a thing may be hard to conduct, or up for interpretation.
posted by occhiblu at 3:24 PM on December 3, 2006

Websites for the childfree (note: not childless) often touch upon discrimination issues around sick leave versus personal time off. You might have luck finding statistics by searching through them?
posted by Houstonian at 4:14 PM on December 3, 2006

I knew a family with both parents working for the UK government where they always made sure none of their allowance of sick days ever went unused -- they were able to cover quite a bit of the school holidays that way. I would guess you can find non-parents who take a similar attitude to sick days. So the simple figures won't prove much about about actual sickness.
posted by Idcoytco at 4:27 PM on December 3, 2006

Not much about absenteeism, but it does seem like daycare increases respiratory infections in the young, but the difference isn't staggering compared to non-daycare-going children.

In conclusion, younger children and those with siblings may be less susceptible to illness associated with daycare, and daycare attendance may negate a protective effect of higher income on respiratory illness.

A little bit more about daycare children and their (not their parent's) absenteeism due to illness (with a slightly quirky twist in that they correlate outdoor activity and absenteeism from illness.

RESULTS: The overall frequency of sick days was 4%. There was no significant effect of spending more time outdoors on the number of illness episodes, length of the episode, or cause of illness.

And here's one on daycare-going Mexican children getting sick.

There were 258 events of respiratory tract infection for an incidence rate of 10.3 infections per person-year (95% CI 8.7-12.0). The main clinical syndromes were pharyngitis (95%), acute otitis media (3.5%), and bronchiolitis (1%). The incidence rates of otitis and bronchiolitis were 0.36 and 0.12 per child-year of observation, respectively. The prevalence figures of nasopharyngeal colonization for the three main bacteria were: S. pneumoniae 20.4%; nontypable H. influenzae 13%; and Moraxella catarrhalis 8%. CONCLUSIONS: Study results show a high prevalence of colonization due to invasive strains, as well as a two-fold incidence rate of acute respiratory infection, higher than those reported in community surveys. These results add to the description of this poorly documented infectious disease in Mexico.
posted by porpoise at 5:37 PM on December 3, 2006

Thanks for all responses, and porpoise especially.

I'm writing an article on kids and germs, focusing on the products that abound to prevent casual contact with "germy" surfaces, like the placemats and Buggy Baggs, etc.... I'm looking for stats that could provide reasons why parents buy said products now or why they ought to buy some but not bother with others.

So I'm looking at stats on handwashing, kids in daycare and infection vectors, etc. -- anything I could think of that would nudge parents toward creating an environment inhospitable (real or imagined) to germs. (And yes, I know "germs" is a catchall.)

Hope that helps.
posted by mdiskin at 6:55 PM on December 3, 2006

There was a two-part series in Salon a while back about how our obsession with killing germs was leading to children having more allergies and other immune problems -- maybe some of the names mentioned there could help? Part One. Part Two.
posted by occhiblu at 10:26 PM on December 3, 2006

This is a rather complicated topic and I'm of two (or more) minds about it. On the one hand it sucks seeing your little ones ill with a respiratory infection. Also, some autoimmune diseases (in those succeptible in the first place) can be triggered by (rather specific) infections.

Based on epidemiological data (ie., kids who are too clean have higher incidences of developing environmental allergies), animal data (the immune system of lab mice who are too clean are a little funky), and current understanding of the immune system, I have the feeling that having kids be too clean doesn't let the regulatory immune population develop properly.

The regulatory population is kind of like the policemen internal affairs of the immune system - they get rid of immune cells that have "gone bad."

Not all 'germs' are bad (pathogenic - disease causing). Being exposed to benign microbes early in life is probably a good thing; the immune system gets used to these foreign bits and doesn't freak out whenever it sees something, for example, pollen, bits of dust mites, or animal dander.
posted by porpoise at 8:12 AM on December 4, 2006

« Older Uploading screenshots to a blog   |   How to help teenagers in a violent relationship? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.