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Health & Parenting

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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.


The flu usually comes on fast and includes more intense symptoms such as body aches and soreness, fever, headache, sore throat, and congestion that can last about a week. Kids with the flu don't want to get up and play. Flu can cause gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting (swine flu tends to be associated with vomiting and diarrhea).

7. How should I treat my child who has a cold or flu?

Make sure your child gets plenty of rest and fluids, such as water or 100% fruit juice, especially if your child has diarrhea or vomiting. Giving her a pain reliever, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen (not aspirin), for fever is OK if taken as directed. But don't give your child an over-the-counter cold remedy without first talking to your health care provider. Many of these medicines are no longer recommended for children. If symptoms continue after three days and your child is still running a fever, call your health care provider. It's also helpful to contact the school nurse and ask what she sees going on at school. Is she noticing strep throat? Other illnesses? Ask what you should be watching for. And call your health care provider if the symptoms persist beyond three days, your child's fever is higher than 101 degrees, or your child has ear pain, a worsening cough, or a sinus-type headache.

8. If my child has been immunized for flu and the kids around her haven't, will her immunity be less effective?

No, your child's immunity is not going to be compromised because other children haven't been vaccinated. But there is a certain herd phenomenon with vaccine-preventable illnesses, such as the flu. That means that the more children who are vaccinated, the fewer kids will become sick and miss school.

9. What should my child's school be doing to protect kids from germs?

Ask what the school is doing to keep the grounds clean. Particularly during flu season, we make sure drinking fountains and other surfaces are cleaned several times a day. Also ask what the school is doing about prevention and if it has a plan for what to do during a flu outbreak. Is it providing classroom instruction about hygiene and making sure kids follow through? Will it be offering a flu vaccine on site? Ultimately, it's important to remember that a sanitized room is clean only until you and I walk into it.

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