The cold and flu season is a difficult time of year for both students and teachers. Germs are being passed around and it seems like everyone is sick within a matter of days. And then it happens, the ongoing question that always interrupts class; “I don’t feel good, can I go to the school nurse?” Unfortunately this is a question that many kids use as a way of trying to get out of class or better yet, sent home without really being sick.
Are they really sick?
Because kids will be kids and many will always try and find a way out of class, the classroom teacher is the first person to determine if a student should be sent to the school nurse. Knowing the signs and symptoms of common seasonal illnesses will help you determine if the student genuinely doesn’t feel well, or if it’s just a show to skip a test.
Fever: Most schools have guidelines that require a child with a temperature over 100 degrees to be sent home. Fever is usually the tale-tale sign of many communicable illnesses. Most children with a fever become lethargic complain of being too hot or cold, may complain of body aches, complexion is clammy in appearance, and are hot to the touch. Rosy cheeks are also a sign that a child may have a fever.
Cough or runny nose: It is common for many children to have a mild cough and runny nose throughout the cold and flu season. These are generally not symptoms that would require a child to go to the school nurse, unless they are accompanied by a fever. If the cough becomes worse or seems “bad” from the start it could be a sign of insetting bronchitis, the flu, or even pneumonia.
Vomiting or diarrhea: These are no brainers. If a student is exhibiting either or both of these symptoms schools require the student to be sent home.
Sore throat: It gets tricky when it comes to a sore throat in the classroom setting. Generally if the student seems to be acting normal and does not exhibit any other symptom such as a fever or cough, they will be just fine. You can usually hear if a person’s throat sounds scratchy or if they are having trouble speaking because their throat hurts. You will just have to use good judgment on this call. If it is a student that never asks to visit the school nurse, it may be a good idea to let them go ahead and get checked out.
Rash: Most schools require that if a child has a rash they must be sent home immediately and cannot return without a doctor’s note. A rash can be a symptom of many different illnesses. A rash could be a symptom of Strep Throat, Impetigo, and even a fungal or parasite infection.
Teachers should use their best judgment when it comes to sick students. Simple observation will usually give you a good idea of the severity, if any, of the symptom(s) the student is experiencing.
Stop those germs in their tracks!
To help cut down on the risk of illness in your class room there are several easy steps that you can do. The Center for Disease Control suggests that you reinforce theses simple steps in your classroom to help reduce the risk of spreading germs. There are three easy steps to follow. Step one: cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Toss each tissue after it is used, even just once. Step two: Immediately after you cough or sneeze and periodically throughout the day, wash your hands with soap and warm water. If you can’t get to water an alcohol substitute hand sanitizer can be effective. The CDC does suggest that the traditional soap and water method is preferred. And step three: don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. This is the fastest and easiest way for germs to spread.
These are easy steps that can prevent the spread of the common cold and flu. Teaching these steps early will prepare your students for the cold and flu season. Remember, practice makes perfect and can help cut down on visits to the school nurse.