Flu outbreaks among children at school are a major concern. Pressure on schools to keep attendance high often leads to an environment where sick children are in school. When the illness is as potentially serious as flu, community health is at risk.
Some schools are taking a proactive approach to preventing the spread of illness in their schools. In Alabama, an elementary school dispenses hand sanitizer to children before snack time. Schools should place a special emphasis on teaching and practicing good virus prevention. But overall, the U.S. gets a "C" on the Clean Hands Report Card from the Soap and Detergent Association.
Handwashing is a learned habit, and a crucial component of teaching and practice of healthy cold, virus, and flu prevention at home and school. Parents and teachers have a great free resource [pdf] from Healthy Schools, Healthy People to emphasize handwashing and health at school. I especially like the graphic that shows how one unwashed hand can potentially infect 180 people in 24 hours.
More Ways Parents Can Prevent Flu and Other Viruses
Don't send your child to school sick. I know, it's hard to make that call some mornings, and arranging at-home child care quickly is a challenge. Look into 'sick child' care options now and plan that you will likely use them. Many times, one parent will want to stay home with the child to provide the care they need. Especially when flu hits, parents need to know how to care for their sick child.
Truth is, we often send our child to school with a cold or other virus, just as we go to work in the same condition. That's why it is so important to use practices to prevent the spread of those viruses. We keep hand sanitizer by the computer at work and home. A shared computer spreads a different kind of virus when you consider how hands spread colds and flu. I keep antibacterial wipes in the car, especially for snacking and after contact with large groups of people.
We do have alternatives to the flu vaccine to prevent flu. About's Dr. Vince Ianelli suggests that healthy children over age five and adults may consider FluMist as an alternative to the vaccine. Flu treatments such as Tamiflu may help prevent flu in other family members as well as ease your child's illness when flu hits. Take your child to the doctor at the first sign of flu to begin treatment within the recommended first 48 hours. Ask your physician about prescribing the antiviral for your entire family at the same time.
Good nutrition, plenty of rest, exercise, and reducing stress are all ways to strengthen kids' and parents' overall disease resistance. Stop to think about ways you can incorporate these strategies into your family life. Set a goal to improve each of these areas every week through the fall and winter months. By spring, these lessons will be habits that keep your family healthy.