By Barbara Keshishian and Marie Peppas
Parents and families work hard to keep children safe year-round, but flu season brings with it special concerns. At this time of year, parents and educators are working hard to educate themselves about how to keep children healthy – and learning – throughout the long flu season. Luckily, they have an expert standing by – the school nurse.
Here are some tips school nurses recommend to keep children healthy:
Soap, water, and a song is your child’s best defense. Children can sing their A-B-C’s or another catchy tune – as long as they wash their hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water.
Look Mom – no hands! Encourage children to use a tissue or their shirt sleeve to cover their cough or sneeze to help prevent spreading viruses. Remind them to avoid touching their noses or eyes after coughing or sneezing.
Get flu shots for the whole family. The seasonal flu vaccine has been widely tested, dispensed, and is available through your child’s pediatrician. For more information about the seasonal flu vaccine, call your child’s pediatrician or your general family practitioner. County departments of health also provide information about vaccines on their websites. Go to www.state.nj.us/health for more information.
Know when to keep your child home. If your child is running a fever, keep him or her at home until at least 24 hours after the temperature has returned to normal without medication. As with most illnesses, try to keep your child quiet and encourage him or her to drink plenty of water and orange juice. When they are ready to eat again, chicken soup provides excellent nutrition.
Preparation prevents panic. Stay informed about the seasonal flu and H1N1 through your child’s school nurse, the district’s website, and the Centers for Disease Control. Many districts have already discussed their emergency response plan with parents and staff and have posted it on their website. If you are not familiar with your district’s plan, contact the administrative office for more information.
Remember, school nurses are the health experts in your child’s school. They have the training, experience, and information necessary to keep your child healthy at school and they are happy to share information with you. Working together, school nurses, teachers, and the entire school team are your partners in keeping children healthy and learning throughout their academic careers.
Barbara Keshishian is the president of the New Jersey Education Association, which represents more than 200,000 school nurses, teachers, and educational support professionals in New Jersey’s public schools.
Marie Peppas is the president of the NJ State School Nurses Association, which supports school nurse members throughout New Jersey as they endeavor to promote the health and safety of students, enabling them to learn.