Preparing for Flu Season in Schools

115

by Terry Rogers

The flu season has begun and no one is more aware of this fact than school nurses. Influenza, also known as “the flu,” is caused by a virus that spreads from person-to-person and is often first noticed in schools as children are exposed both in school and at home.

“Flu symptoms have an abrupt onset with fever, sore throat, chills, dry cough, headache, body aches, congestion and runny nose,” Yvonne White, Lead/Float Nurse for Milford School District, said. “Vomiting and Diarrhea is common among children. You can often tell the difference between a cold and the flu as cold symptoms come on slowly with fatigue, sneezing, cough and stuffy nose. Headache and fever are rare with a cold.”

White explained that pregnant women, children and adults over 65 are at the highest risk for complications from the flu as are those with certain chronic medical conditions. Anyone that has been diagnosed with the flu who develops shortness of breath, trouble breathing, chest pain or discomfort, dizziness, confusion or severe vomiting should seek medical attention immediately.

“There are ways to reduce your risk of getting the flu,” White said. “Encourage children to wash hands often and cover their cough. A flu shot is also good prevention for the flu. If you think your child may have the flu, seek medical attention to confirm the diagnosis. If they are diagnosed with flu, allow them to rest at home, drink plenty of fluids and avoid contact with others as much as possible. Doctors often prescribe anti-viral drugs to shorten the time the patient is sick.”

Students who have been diagnosed with the flu may return to school when they have been fever free for at least 24 hours without using any fever reducing medication such as Tylenol or ibuprofen. They also must be free from vomiting for two solid meals and free from diarrhea for at least 24 hours. White explained that children who have been on antibiotics for 24 hours and/or have a note from their doctor that they may return to school are permitted back into the classroom.

“We ask that parents adhere to these recommendations for several reasons,” White said. “We want to be sure children have returned to health and are ready to learn. We also want to try to minimize the spread of the flu as much as we can. Teachers are able to send work home for students to keep them from getting behind so that parents can keep a sick child home as long as necessary to get them well again.”