What the School Nurse Wants You to Know About Cold and Flu Season.
It’s that time of year again- the season of colds, flu, and a myriad of other childhood illnesses. At this time of year, the school nurses are often overwhelmed by the number of cases they see everyday. There are, however, a few basic precautions that can be taken in order to minimize the disruption illness can cause in school and at home.
Teach hand washing
The number one thing that most kids can do to limit their exposure to germs is to clean their hands thoroughly. Teach kids to wash hands before eating and after outdoor play. Also, be sure to stress the importance of washing hands after using the bathroom. Many nasty germs can be passed along through contact with surfaces in the bathroom. No time for soap and water? Teach kids that in a pinch, waterless hand cleaners can help keep germs at bay. But remember- these are not a substitute for good washing.
This sounds positively antithetical to everything we teach our kids, but it’s important to teach kids how germs are passed through sharing certain items. Sharing foods and utensils can spread saliva-borne illnesses. Sharing hats and other clothing can spread lice infections faster than wildfire. Even sharing pencils and pens can spread illnesses if these tools have found their way into another’s mouth or onto the floor at some point. Teach children that sharing is good, but to be sure to keep personal items for their own use. Help kids stock up their own supply of pencils, crayons, rulers, and snacks to limit their desire for someone else’s things.
Keep kids home
Not the usual information you hear from a school, right? But sometimes it is important to exclude students until they are healthy enough to participate in school without infecting other students. Some common conditions such as lice, conjunctivitis, strep throat, and other illnesses are quickly spread throughout students and staff if not treated effectively. High fever, vomiting, and diarrhea are also illnesses that can make learning almost impossible for afflicted students. If you are concerned that your child is ill, be sure to see the doctor and follow their recommendations for treatment and school exclusion. Doctor’s offices will supply a note for your child’s school excusing their absence, if necessary, so your child won’t be penalized for missing class.
Check with your doctor
At your child’s yearly physical, be sure they are up-to-date on their vaccinations against childhood illnesses. Many schools require students to have specific immunizations at certain points during their school year, and doctors are aware of those requirements. If you choose not to have your child vaccinated for personal reasons, be aware that you often must provide documentation of your decision to the school so they are aware of your position; it is also up to you to be sure to monitor your child for signs of illnesses as well to maintain their health for learning.
Keep updated contact information
Nearly every day a school nurse needs to contact a home for some purpose, from a recess yard scrape to severe illness. By having your contact information updated and available, it makes the nurse’s job of finding you easier. Also, be sure to have emergency contacts available; everyone is out of communicationsometimes, and it never fails to be when children get sick! By having multiple contact numbers for yourself and several emergency contacts who have permission to pick up your child, you can help your child get home faster when they have an emergency at school.
Students sometimes view the nurse as a “vacation getaway” from class and make every effort to visit as often as possible. When this happens, it is often difficult for the nurse to know when an illness is real and when it’s not. Teach your children that the nurse is an important to know and go to when you’re sick, but it’s not a place to visit because you’re bored or math class is hard. By limiting their visits to the nurse, everyone will know when a real emergency is brewing.
By working with kids during the most intense period of the illness season, you will be helping the school nurse take the best care possible of all of the students in the building. In addition, you’ll be teaching your kids great hygiene skills for the rest of their lives!
Good luck during this year’s cold and flu season!
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