Improving care of children with acute respiratory tract infections: a qualitative study of parents' needs

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)


Introduction: Respiratory tract infections (RTIs) are a significant cause of anxiety for parents and the commonest reason why parents consult primary care in the UK. Little is known about parents' perceptions of what may help them when their children become ill, how this is affected by their concerns and beliefs, and what support they need to improve self-care and to make an appropriate decision to consult. The research reported here is part of the NIHR funded TARGET Programme that has an aim to help parents of children with active RTIs to use NHS services more appropriately. This qualitative study investigated parents' needs prior to consulting. Method: Focus groups were used to explore parents' views and experiences of when their child had a RTI. Six focus groups were recruited using purposeful sampling to obtain groups from a range of socio-economic situations and with children of different ages (within the range 3m-12yrs). Researchers facilitated the semi-structured discussions and covered parents' concerns and needs before consultation, triggers and barriers to consulting primary care services, and the content, format, timing and modes of delivery of information presentation most useful to parents. The focus groups were audio-recorded, anonymised, transcribed and thematically analysed using NVivo8. Results: Before consulting, parents sought information from a wide range of sources including family, friends, pharmacists, books, the internet and NHS Direct. Parents drew on multiple information sources to make sense of their children's symptoms, to find ways to make their child feel better (particularly less experienced parents) and to help them decide when to consult. Lay understandings of illnesses ‘going around' in the local community influenced parents' expectations of symptom severity and duration. Parents' decision to consult or confidence to care for a child at home was influenced by a complex interaction of beliefs, experiences, lay knowledge and information from external sources. Conclusions: The data suggest that parents need clear information about RTIs in children from a trusted source. Parents would welcome information about ways to relieve basic RTI symptoms when caring for children at home, signs of more serious complications, and knowledge about when to consult their GP.
Translated title of the contributionImproving care of children with acute respiratory tract infections: a qualitative study of parents' needs
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication40th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Society for Academic Primary Care
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2011

Bibliographical note

Conference Organiser: University of Bristol


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