What Price are You Paying for Childhood Infection?

On average, a bout of infection that children easily succumb to, such as cough, skin infection or diarrhoea, may set mothers back by S$155.

This was revealed by the Lifebuoy Cost of Infections Study, the first local study on the economic impact of common childhood infections, carried out by Lifebuoy in consultation with the Society of Infectious Diseases (Singapore).

The survey was conducted with a total of 300 mothers, each of whom have a child under 12 years old who had at least one episode of respiratory infection (flu, cough, cold and fever), skin infection (rashes, blisters and prickly heat), diarrhoea and/or HFMD in the last six months.

Results of the survey indicated that mothers spent an average of S$155, including consultation fees, medicine charges and transport costs, to treat per episode of these everyday infections. Also, the average opportunity cost associated with respiratory and skin infections, diarrhoea and Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) is S$760.

HFMD – Highest Opportunity Cost

As the only infection with an opportunity cost that crossed the $1,000 mark1, HFMD can potentially set parents back the most in terms of childhood infections. Cost of treatment per episode of HFMD is the highest (S$207)1 compared to other infections. Morever, it is more than 70% in excess1 of the average spent to treat per episode of respiratory diseases (S$121), the most common childhood infection based on the Lifebuoy Cost of Infections Study.

This is a significant figure, considering that the incidence of HFMD soared from 6,411 cases in 2004 to 31,779 cases in 2013; an almost 400% surge in the last decade.2

Time Lost due to Infections

Up to seven in 10 mothers worry about the impact on their child’s education if they were absent from school because of an illness. On average, nearly six in 10 children down with respiratory and skin infections, diarrhoea and HFMD, and their parents lost up to five days of school and work respectively.

Hygiene First to Keep Infections at Bay!

The Lifebuoy Cost of Infections Study uncovered that close to three in 10 mothers think their children fall ill more frequently than they did when they were a child, and approximately one in five mothers feel their children take longer to recover. While a majority of mothers believe that infection-causing germs are getting stronger and harder to fight, most also feel they can prevent their children from falling ill.

However, one of the simplest methods – hygiene – is oft overlooked.

When surveyed, only 6% of mothers (about one in 10) mentioned regular handwashing as a precautionary method, compared to 60% (three in five mothers) who cited a healthy diet as the uppermost preventive measure. Yet making sure kids develop the habit of washing their hands is actually one of the simplest ways to keep illnesses at bay.

More families these days may be using anti-bacterial soap but only about seven in 10 children washed their hands before and after food, after play and when they return home from outdoors.

Prof Paul Anantharajah Tambyah, President, Society of Infectious Diseases (Singapore), said, “This is an important study as for the first time, the economic impact of common childhood infections in Singapore has been objectively shown. Hand hygiene has been shown across the world to be highly cost effective in reducing common childhood infections. Increasing hand hygiene at home and at school is likely to be a good way to reduce infections and save costs for the family.”

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1 All tabulations and assumptions on HFMD are based on a sample size of 21 mothers whose child had at least one episode of HFMD in the last six months

2 Weekly Infectious Diseases Bulletin, Epidemiological week 52, 2004-2013, http://www.moh.gov.sg/content/moh_web/home/statistics/
infectiousDiseasesStatistics/weekly_infectiousdiseasesbulletin.html

(accessed 25 April 2014)

 

 

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