Parental views on the management of young children with respiratory tract infections in primary care – a pilot study

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Emma Fake(1), Amanda Lees(2), Kit Tapson(3), Sanjay Patel(4)


1. University of Southampton. 2. Health and Wellbeing Research Group, University of Winchester. 3. Centre for Arts as Wellbeing, University of Winchester. 4. Division of Women and Children, Southampton Children’s Hospital



Local primary care data shows a 24% increase in the rate of acute presentations with common self-limiting infections for children aged 0-4 years between 2015/16 – 2016/17. As rates of serious illness have decreased, this means increasing numbers of presentations could be managed elsewhere. Although parents rarely expect antibiotics, they are often perceived to want them by clinicians; potentially resulting in more antibiotic prescriptions and driving future health-seeking behaviour.


To explore parent expectations, concerns and opinions about the primary care management of children presenting with respiratory tract infections (RTIs).


Semi-structured interviews with parents of children aged 0-4 years presenting to primary care clinicians with symptoms of a respiratory tract infection. Analysis involved thematic review


Parents used experience or ‘parental instinct’ when deciding to consult; this was due to seeing a similar illness before and receiving treatment, or alternatively having never seen this illness and being unsure of what to do. Parents saw the usefulness of written information describing actions to take and when to consult when their child was unwell. There was an about even split between those preferring paper and those preferring web-based resources. All parents sought input from a clinician for reassurance.


Better understanding of parent expectations when consulting clinicians with unwell children could facilitate a more effective consultation. Parents expect reassurance about their child’s illness, but inconsistent advice and management from healthcare professionals, such as prescribing antibiotics, act to increase parental anxiety and potentially drives future health-seeking behaviour. Changing the way clinicians communicate, including the use of consistent messages, may have a positive impact during current and future acute illnesses.

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