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Ask the School Nurse: Parents' Top 9 Questions for Back to School

Worried about flu? Stress? Colds? Our school health expert answers your questions about keeping children healthy.
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2. How do illnesses spread among school children?

Colds and flu are typically spread from person to person from respiratory droplets. Viruses enter the body through the eyes, mouth, or nose. A sneeze can spray thousands of infectious particles into the air at 200 miles per hour, and they can travel 3 feet. If children don't cover their mouths and spray other children or an object, such as a doorknob, and other children touch it and wipe their noses or mouths, they're more likely to get sick. 

3. What's the best way to help my child prevent picking up an illness at school?

It's important to teach kids to wash their hands before eating and after playing outside and using the restroom. Hand washing is one of the best ways to prevent illness. If parents enforce that at home, we'll reinforce it at school. Talk to your kids about covering their mouths with a tissue when they cough and sneeze, and send them to school with a bottle of antiviral hand gel and instructions to use it often. Also, the CDC recommends the flu vaccine for kids ages 6 months and older. 

4. Can I send my child to school if he's not feeling well?

If your child has a temperature higher than 100 degrees, body aches, and extreme sleepiness or is coughing or vomiting, you need to keep him home until he is free of those symptoms for 24 hours. If he's not really sick, but something seems off, let the school nurse know and ask her to monitor your child.  

5. What if there is a sibling at home who is sick?

Tell the school nurse, "Joey's brother has been out with an illness. Joey's not having any symptoms, but I'm just letting you know." Then, reinforce healthy hygiene practices at home and school, and make sure all your kids are getting enough sleep.

6. How can I tell if my child has a cold or the flu?

A cold often begins with a sore throat that lasts for a day or two and is accompanied by sneezing, sniffling, and, in some cases, a temperature. It usually lasts for no more than a week, but symptoms can linger longer.

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