Impact of children's influenza-like illnesses on parental quality of life: A qualitative study

Authors

  • Maria Yui Kwan Chow,

    Corresponding author
    1. Discipline of Paediatrics and Child Health, The Children's Hospital at Westmead, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
    • National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, Kids Research Institute, The Children's Hospital at Westmead, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
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  • Angela M Morrow,

    1. Discipline of Paediatrics and Child Health, The Children's Hospital at Westmead, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
    2. Kids Rehab, The Children's Hospital at Westmead, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
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  • Robert Booy,

    1. National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, Kids Research Institute, The Children's Hospital at Westmead, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
    2. Discipline of Paediatrics and Child Health, The Children's Hospital at Westmead, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
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  • Julie Leask

    1. National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, Kids Research Institute, The Children's Hospital at Westmead, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
    2. Discipline of Paediatrics and Child Health, The Children's Hospital at Westmead, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
    3. School of Public Health, Sydney Medical School, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
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  • Competing interests: See Funding.

Correspondence: Maria Yui Kwan Chow, National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, The Research Building, The Children's Hospital at Westmead, Cnr Hawkesbury Road and Hainsworth Street, Locked Bag 4001, Westmead, Sydney, NSW 2145, Australia. Fax: +61 2 9845 1418; email: maria.chow@health.nsw.gov.au

Abstract

Aims

Influenza and influenza-like illness (ILI) in otherwise healthy children has considerable impact on their parents. This study explored the impact of children's ILI on parental quality of life (QoL).

Methods

We conducted qualitative in-depth interviews with parents of children aged 6 months–3 years with severe ILI. Children from childcare centres in Sydney, Australia were followed through the 2010 influenza season. Questions covered child's symptoms, parents' experiences including medical care visits, impact on the family's daily routine, and emotional, physical and social well-being. Interviews were analysed using a modified grounded theory approach.

Results

We conducted 21 interviews with 23 parents. Five main themes emerged: ‘sudden changes in daily life’, ‘emotional impact’, ‘social isolation and relationship changes’, ‘importance of family and friend support’ and ‘interaction with the medical system’. Perceived practical and emotional support from family and/or friends and consultations with the doctor appeared to moderate the impact.

Conclusions

Severe ILI in children has a considerable impact on their parents' QoL, through disruptions of normal life routine, social isolation and stress in coping with the sick child. These impacts should be considered when introducing flexible workplace policies designed to minimise the impact on parental QoL. Prevention strategies such as vaccinating children against influenza may help alleviate this impact at a population level.

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