Introduction Viral gastroenteritis with dehydration is one of the most frequent reasons for visits to pediatric Emergency Departments (ED). Worldwide dehydration is among the top causes of mortality in preschool children. Parental intervention at home can make a difference in the course of a child’s illness.
Objectives This project is part of a program of research to design an educational tool for parents of preschoolers with gastroenteritis. The primary objective of this phase was to validate an interview guide. From initial data, the researchers explored parental motivations for bringing their children to the ED.
Methods Ten families were recruited from the pediatric ED. Included were families of children under 4 with vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration. Telephone interviews were recorded and transcribed. The interview guide was edited for face and content validity. To ensure rigor, thematic analysis was done by all investigators.
Results The interview guide was validated. Probes were added, and likert scale questions were standardized. Thematic analysis focused on parents’ decision to take their child to the ED. Making this decision is complex, involving community-level, family-level, and child factors. Access to medical care, including perceived urgency, travel time and mode of transport, impacts parents’ decision.
Conclusions A model outlines the most important factors our sample of parents report when deciding to take their ill child to the ED. Making the decision about an ill child is more complex than when individuals decide for themselves. The interview guide developed will facilitate collection of further information to test our model.