Back-to-school time and the start of flu season seem to coincide perfectly. And with school settings identified as one of the top places for the spread of respiratory illnesses like the flu, the timing is probably not a coincidence.
With a few precautions, however, a school setting can be turned from a viral breeding ground into the best venue for educating about and implementing flu prevention strategies.
The most surefire way to block the flu from infecting your child’s school is to get as many children as possible vaccinated. Some schools, such as those in Montgomery County, Maryland, are making the vaccination process as easy as possible by offering free, voluntary flu shots during school hours. Talk to your school and county officials about how to get this kind of program into your schools.
Schools are, of course, places of education, academic and otherwise. Be sure that your children and the staff are fully aware of best practices when it comes to flu prevention hygiene. For example, in Lake County, California, public health teams have been working with the Office of Education to make information about proper cough covering, hand washing and sanitization techniques available to parents, students and teachers prior to the start of the school year.
Hygiene practices are only effective when the right supplies are at the ready. Be sure that your child’s classroom is equipped with the soap, alcohol-based hand cleaner, and tissues needed to maintain a healthy and virus-free work and play space. If items like these are in short supply, consider organizing a drive or creating a flu season supply list for parents to purchase for the classroom before flu season kicks in.
Know the early symptoms of the flu and be on the look out. Mention any flu-like symptoms you notice in a child to his or her parents or the school nurse. Identifying this illness early will not only reduce the risk of spreading the virus, but early treatment will minimize the painful and dangerous symptoms of the flu.
While attendance is crucial to a child’s education, consider loosening your family’s restrictions on missing school during flu season, and speak to your school about attendance regulations. Keeping sick children home is critical for controlling outbreaks in school settings. Virginia Beach City Public Schools in Virginia encourage parents to keep sick children home from school, cautioning them that merely giving medicines for symptom relief in the morning does not diminish the communicability of the illness. The rule of thumb they set for parents is to keep a child at home until he is fever free (without fever-reducing medication) for a full 24 hours.
Keeping the flu out of your child’s school requires planning, education, encouragement and followup on your part — but hard work can certainly pay off with a healthier student body this flu season.