According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), influenza causes more hospitalizations among young children than any other vaccine-preventable disease.
Flu symptoms may include:
- fever or chills
- sore throat
- runny or stuffy nose
- muscle or body aches
Those infected with the flu virus can spread it to others from one day before symptoms develop to five to seven days after getting sick. Children may be infectious for longer than seven days.
High Risk Groups
Anyone can get the flu, but some groups are at high risk for having severe reactions to the virus, resulting in hospitalization and even death. These high risk groups include: children under five years old; adults 65 or older; pregnant women; American Indians/Alaskan Natives; people younger than 19 who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy; people with certain medical conditions such as asthma or heart disease.
How to Prevent the Flu
Vaccination. The CDC notes that yearly vaccination against the flu is the single most important way to prevent falling ill to the virus. Most towns offer free flu clinics. Call your local department of public health to find out about a flu clinic in your area, and do your best to educate and encourage parents to bring their children to a clinic or doctor for yearly vaccinations.
Covering coughs and sneezes. Cough and sneeze into your sleeve, not your hands, or into a tissue. Promptly throw the tissue away after using.
Washing hands. Wash hands often with soap and water and, most importantly, teach children to wash hands frequently and properly. If soap and water is not available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread quickly this way.
Try to keep sick people away from others. If you suspect a child has the flu, immediately send the child to the nurse’s office (if your school has one) or call the child’s parent/guardian.
The CDC has put together a series of public service announcements (PSAs) for children. If you have access to a computer in your classroom, consider showing a PSA to your students: http://www.flu.gov/psa/
Cleaning and Disinfecting Classrooms
Studies show that the flu virus can live for up to eight hours on a surface. For this reason, it is important to follow good housekeeping procedures in the classroom during flu season.
Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that are in constant use, such as doorknobs, desks, computer keyboards, faucet handles, hands-on learning items and toys. First, use soap and water to remove germs from surfaces. Next, use a disinfectant to kill the germs that remain.
Because flu viruses are relatively fragile, standard cleaning and disinfecting will go a long way in preventing the spread of germs.