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How to minimize spreading H1N1 Flu and other germs

Don Cowart, Principal of Hope Highlands Elementary School shares helpful tips and reminders for parents, kids and school staff on how to help keep our schools germ-free. especially in response to the increase of reported H1N1 cases. Read more at principalcowart.blogspot.com.

thermometerThe Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is projecting that as many as 40% of Rhode Islanders will get the H1N1 virus (also known as Swine Flu).  The highest risks are for school age children and adults from 18-45 years old. That means everyone going to school is at high risk. Schools will be on alert for kids and teachers with “Flu Like” symptoms.  Even unconfirmed cases of the H1N1 virus may result in high absences from school.

Here is a list of things parents and students should do recommended by the CDC to minimize spreading germs:

– Remind students about using good health habits at school (sneezing into elbow, washing hands often)

– Give students hand gels for backpack and remind them to use it before eating and after sneezing and coughing

– Report flu like symptoms to the school nurse immediately (fever plus cough or sore throat)

– Purchase cold and flu care products ahead of time

– Have alternate childcare plans arranged ahead of time

Sending sick children into school is the worst thing you can do. Some parents will pump a child up with Motrin or Tylenol and send them to school. By 1:00 they are in the office with 103 degree temp and needing to be picked-up from school. In the meantime they have spread the sickness to all the students and teachers in the classroom. The CDC says that a child must be fever free (without medication) for at least 24 hours before they return to school. The CDC has made some recommendations for schools as well. Below is the list of things schools will need to do:

Recommended school responses for the 2009-2010 school year
Under conditions with similar severity as in spring 2009

– Stay home when sick: Those with flu-like illness should stay home for at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever, or signs of a fever, without the use of fever-reducing medicines.

– Separate ill students and staff: Students and staff who appear to have flu-like illness should be sent to a room separate from others until they can be sent home.

– Hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette:  The new recommendations emphasize the importance of the basic foundations of influenza prevention: stay home when sick, wash hands frequently with soap and water when possible, and cover noses and mouths with a tissue when coughing or sneezing

– Routine cleaning: School staff should routinely clean areas that students and staff touch often with the cleaners they typically use. Special cleaning with bleach and other non-detergent-based cleaners is not necessary.

– Early treatment of high-risk students and staff: People at high risk for influenza complications who become ill with influenza-like illness should speak with their health care provider as soon as possible.

– Consideration of selective school dismissal: Although there are not many schools where all or most students are at high risk (for example, schools for medically fragile children or for pregnant students) a community might decide to dismiss such a school to better protect these high-risk students.

My goal here isn’t to scare anyone. I feel as parents and educators we should be aware of what could happen and how we should manage any possible out brake. The following websites are good resources, especially if you live in RI.


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  • Should kids use “hand gel” when they can’t use soap, or does that ultimately create a more dangerous situation?

    Kids don’t routinely wash their hands before eating lunch at our school, and I am considering giving my sons hand gel in an exterior pocket of their lunchboxes.

    On the other hand, I don’t want to fuel the creation of super-resistant bacteria.

  • I am proud to say that Mr. Cowart is the principal of my kid’s elementary school. He also shares great info on his blog. Enjoy your 15 minutes of fame, Mr. Cowart, although I know you will be making headlines again in the future!

    Lisa Kirshenbaum