With flu season already upon us, school nurses from across the Milford School District are educating families about this year’s strains of influenza and ways to prevent children and families from contracting the highly contagious virus. With school buildings being a gathering point for children and adults from all parts of the community, individuals can find themselves at higher risk in these public settings.
According to a recent Gallup Poll, the 2013 flu season is off to a typical start as 2.2% of all Americans have reported being sick with the flu on any given day in the first half of October. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that the timing of flu is very unpredictable and can vary from season to season. Flu activity most commonly peaks in the United States in January or February. However, seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October and continue to occur as late as May.
Ann-Marie Nash, School Nurse at Banneker Elementary School, recently sent information home with students to share with their families about how to notice symptoms of the flu, what to do if a child has the flu and ways to prevent the virus from spreading. Signs to look for include a fever over 101.1 degrees Fahrenheit, chills, sore throat, being very tired and having muscle aches. Individuals may also have a cough or runny nose.
“The flu hits very quickly and suddenly and is more severe than the common cold,” commented Ms. Nash. “Children and the elderly are more susceptible to the virus because their immune systems tend to be weaker.”
Ms. Nash asks that children with flu-like symptoms be kept at home and not attend school or other public activities. Before returning to school, children must be better for at least 24 hours and be fever free for at least 24 hours without the use of medications.
Preventing the spread of the flu virus and safeguarding individuals that have not had the seasonal flu begins with getting a flu vaccine. School nurses across the district recommend that parents or guardians have their child receive the flu shot or flu mist. Local pharmacies, like Walgreens and Rite Aid in Milford are giving the flu vaccine for children 9 and older, with no appointment necessary. Individuals should bring their insurance card or cash. The Delaware Division of Public Health seasonal flu shot clinics, intended for those who have no healthcare provider or whose insurance does not cover flu and pneumonia vaccinations, are located across the state of Delaware; a listing of the clinics can be found online at http://dhss.delaware.gov/dph/fluclinics.html.
“I recommend that everyone in the family over the age of six months receive a form of the flu vaccine,” commented Ms. Nash. “With families doing their part by sending healthy children to school, we can help create a healthy environment for students.”
Prevention of the common flu also includes always washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before eating or playing outside and shaking hands with others. If parents have any questions on this year’s flu season or where to receive a flu vaccination, they are encouraged to call the school nurse at their child’s school.