Background: The increased risk of common infectious diseases associated with child day care attendance may vary by age, health plan and parent educational level. This study determined quantitatively the risk of diarrhoeal illness and upper respiratory infection (URI) among day-care children in comparison with home-care children. It examined the extent of risks in day-care children under different conditions of three age groups, enrolled in two health plans, and from families of two levels of education.
Methods: The study subjects were recruited through two health plans: a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) and the Medicaid program in Columbia, South Carolina of the USA. The sample was collected using a household survey of children, aged 5 years or younger. The participants were contacted bimonthly for 18 months with 435 attending out-of-home day care facilities and 753 being cared for at home. The potential confounding factors of family characteristics were controlled in examining the odds ratios for day care effect on common infections in children under different conditions.
Results: In general, risks of diarrhoeal illness and URI in day-care children are greater than in home-care children. Children younger than 1.5 years of age attending day care and covered by the Medicaid program are at the greatest risk. The difference in risks between day-care and home-care children, however, is reduced to an insignificant level for children older than 1.5 years of age and for children covered by the HMO health plan. Among day-care children, those who are covered by the Medicaid program are at a significantly higher risk than those who are covered by the HMO health plan.
Conclusions: Although day-care children in general suffer a greater risk of common infectious diseases, the extent of day care effect on risks of diarrhoeal illness and URI varies significantly by age and type of health insurance plan.