By, Susan Cassin Zanker, R.N.
Winter is upon us and hopefully your family has enjoyed a happy and healthy holiday season. However, as we all know, with winter comes “cold and flu” season. Unfortunately, we often see gastrointestinal viruses (the “stomach bug”) at this time of year as well. There are ways to help prevent the spread of illness and to alleviate symptoms should they occur.
Influenza, more commonly known as “the flu” and the co mmon cold are both respiratory illnesses and have a lot of similar symptoms. A cold will usually cause no more than a runny or stuffy nose, a sore throat and sneezing. The flu usually causes worse symptoms than a cold such as fever, body aches, fatigue and a dry cough.
When ill with a cold, the flu, or a stomach bug, it is important to get plenty of rest and stay well hydrated (have plenty to drink). As well, you should contact a physician when needed (i.e. for a persistent or high fever, persistent cough or any difficulty breathing, profuse vomiting or diarrhea or difficulty maintaining hydration). Your (your child’s) physician may make recommendations regarding pain relievers, fever reducers, cough medications or other remedies for your symptoms.
The ACES policy is that a student must be fever free (temperature below 100 degrees) in order to remain in school. Students should remain at home until fever free for 24 hours without the help of a fever reducer such as Acetaminophen (commonly known as Tylenol), or Ibuprofen (commonly known as Motrin or Advil). Students should also remain at home until free of vomiting and/or diarrhea for 24 hours in order to help prevent the spread of germs.
To help prevent the spread of germs:
- Cover your cough or sneeze. Coughing into your elbow can be an effective barrier (not into your hands).
- Dispose of used Kleenex in a waste basket.
- Wash your hands frequently (after touching mouth or nose, before meals and after bathroom use). Wash for 20 seconds at a time. If soap and water are not available, an alcohol based hand sanitizer may be used.
- No Sharing of utensils, cups, sports bottles and wash them well in dishwasher or in soapy water after each use.
- Stay at home until fever free (without a fever reducer) and free of vomiting or diarrhea for 24hours.
- Speak with your doctor about whether receiving the Influenza Vaccine is appropriate for you / your child. The influenza vaccine provides the best protection from “the flu” and may lessen symptoms if you do catch the flu.
Have a Happy and Healthy New Year!!!
The information in this article has been adapted in part from recommendations from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and more information may be found here.