December 4, 2019

Back to school, back to flu season

Libby Richards Libby Richards, associate professor of nursing at Purdue University. (Purdue University photo) Download image

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — With children in crowded school rooms every day and flu activity increasing, now is a great opportunity to teach children tips about influenza and norovirus so they can stay healthy.

 “Take time to talk to your child about proper hygiene, including handwashing, using and disposing of tissues properly, as well as coughing and sneezing into your elbow,” says Libby Richards, an associate professor of nursing who specializes in public health in Purdue University’s School of Nursing. “Make sure hand sanitizer is available in classrooms and encourage children to wash their hands before they eat.”

One of the easiest ways to protect children from getting the flu at school is having them vaccinated, and teachers and school employees should be vaccinated as well, Richards says.

Schools, day cares and early childhood education centers are at a higher risk for rapid spread of the flu since the illness is spread person to person, and children more easily spread the flu.

“You have the recipe for a perfect storm,” she says.

If a school or day care has a lot of absences due to flu, norovirus or other illnesses, sometimes school will be canceled to thoroughly clean the facility. Richards says it’s important to disinfect your house and items your children frequently touch, such as toys, phones, remote controls, tablets and door knobs.

“Norovirus is very contagious, infects the gastrointestinal system, and causes vomiting and diarrhea,” Richards says. “It has a shorter duration – normally one to three days – compared with influenza, which is respiratory only and can last up to seven days. If your child gets sick with either of these, it’s important to keep them home until they are fever-free without the use of over-the-counter medications for at least 24 hours.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting an increase in influenza activity, especially in the south and western parts of the United States. 

Writer: Matthew Oates, 765-496-2571, oatesw@purdue.edu, @mo_oates

Source: Libby Richards, 765-494-1392, erichards@purdue.edu, @LibbyAnnR1

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