9 in 10 Irish women shoulder the burden of care for sick children

New research from MSD revealed that almost one in four (23%) Irish parents being forced to take as many as seven days off work as a result of their child/children contracting chickenpox, costing Irish households over €1,000

A new study from Empathy Research, commissioned by MSD Ireland last week, has revealed a range of stark inequalities among male and female partners as 9 in 10 Irish women shoulder the burden of care for sick children. The research revealed insights into the attitudes and impact that chickenpox has within Irish households. According to the nationally representative survey, 72% of parents with dependent children claim that their household has been impacted by the Varicella Zoster Virus or Chickenpox.

The research also revealed that when it comes to the primary care giver, inequalities exist amongst Irish female and male parents when it comes to taking days off work to care for a sick child. 9 in 10 Irish women claim to be the primary care-giver at home when a child falls ill, compared to only 28% of men, with 56% of women claiming they are more likely to take days off work when their children are ill instead of their partners.

The impacts of chickenpox go beyond just the physical symptoms with almost 2 in 5 (37%) parents claiming that they were forced to take between four to six days off work when their child(ren) got chickenpox. Almost a quarter (23%) of parents were forced to take as many as seven days or more off work.

According to latest CSO figures, the average daily income per person is €146.37. This translates to a loss of over €878 for the majority of Irish households as a result of chickenpox and almost €1,025 per household for the 23% of parents that are forced to take seven days off work.

Almost 9 in 10 (86%) of adults claim to be aware of the risks and complications associated with chickenpox, with 1 in 6 (16%) claiming to be very aware. While incidences of risks are low among parents surveyed, the complications arising from chickenpox, in some cases can be life changing. Of those surveyed, 13% claim that their child had been impacted by complications of chickenpox.

Speaking about the research findings, Dr Nick Flynn commented: “Chickenpox is one of many preventable diseases which Irish GP’s encounter on a regular basis. The lack of awareness in relation to Chickenpox and preventative measures highlighted by the research is telling.

While incidences of complications as a result of Chickenpox may not be very common, they can be very serious. More frequently however, parents are forced to take as many as seven to ten days off work to care for a sick child, on top of the cost of treatments, GP visits, transportation and more.

From my own personal experience these costs often come as a surprise to families, and can sometimes pose a real strain on parents. Information is key when it comes to managing our children’s health, I’d always recommend speaking to a GP or healthcare professional directly to get all the facts you need to decide what’s best for your family.”

There is no cure for chickenpox. The virus usually clears up by itself without any treatment. However, there are ways of easing the itch and discomfort. Although preventative measures exist for chickenpox, almost two thirds of parents with dependent children (64%) claim that they are not aware or not sure of how they could protect their child(ren) against chickenpox.

Additional findings from the research include:

–       Just over a third of parents (36%) claim that their child(ren) spread chickenpox to another sibling or relative.

–       Almost half of parents (47%) claim their child(ren) picked up chickenpox at school, with a quarter (25%) claiming they caught chickenpox from a sibling, while just over 1 in 5 (22%) claim chickenpox was caught in crèche.

–       7 in 10 adults (70%) claim they did/would turn to a GP to get information about chickenpox, with just over half (52%) claiming that they did/would turn to a pharmacist to get information in relation to chickenpox. Almost 4 in 10 (39%) adults claim they look/looked online for information in relation to chickenpox.

–     Just over 6 in 10 (62%) parents of dependent children claim they would use/have used advice from online parenting forums in relation to their child’s healthcare, with those aged 45+ most likely to claim they would use/have used advice from these channels.

The research was commissioned by MSD Ireland and carried out by Empathy Research on a sample population of Irish adults.

For more information in relation to Chickenpox, visit

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