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How to Stay Healthy during Flu Season

It’s flu season again, and according to the Mississippi State Dept. of Health and their Influenza-Like Illness report for the last week of 2014, the overall state rate was 9.9% which was a decrease from the week before, 10.9%, but higher than the same time for 2013, 8.2%.

Dtaying flu-free and as healthy as possible is uppermost in all of our minds, especially for our children, and with schools reconvening this week, many parents are anxious to know what they can do and what schools are doing to help prevent their children from catching the flu.

Lafayette Elementary School nurse Kathy Elliott

Kathy Elliott is school nurse at Lafayette Elementary and said that while there was a tremendous outbreak of flu-like symptoms right before the Thanksgiving break, since the children’s return this week, it’s been light.

“So far, it’s been calm,” Elliott said. “I’m not seeing or hearing of any children with flu symptoms yet. We’ve seen several with upset tummies, but no fevers and coughs or those types of symptoms that you would associate with the flu.”

Elliott said that while the preliminary outlook was good, she’s not letting down her guard, nor are the teachers at Lafayette.

“Sometimes it won’t start showing up until the children have been back a while,” she said. “We educate our children here at Lafayette about fighting the flu. Outside my office, I’ve taken apart a book on the flu and displayed it on the wall, so the children have the information in front of them. It’s very picture-oriented and the children will stop and look at it and read about the flu and how they can help themselves to prevent it.”

Elliott said she and the teachers at staff at Lafayette also encourage good hygiene and the washing of hands to prevent the spread of any germs.

“Washing our hands is something we do here at school,” Elliott said. “We practice hand washing with the children and use hand sanitizer.”

OHS nurse Meg Hayden

Meg Hayden is lead school nurse for the Oxford School District and is the acting nurse at the high school. Hayden said that since the return of students on Monday, she hasn’t seen or heard any of the other school nurses report about a large activity of flu-like symptoms.

“It hasn’t been any worse than before they left for the holiday break,” she said. “We saw quite a bit a couple of months ago. We saw a lot of flu, mono and strep; 2014 was a particularly active season. In comparison to the last two years, there was definitely more illness. I don’t always know the final outcome once they go home from school sick, because they don’t come back and tell me, but from what I saw in 2014, it seemed a lot worse than in past years.”

Hayden said at Oxford they preach prevention, both from the home level and at school.

“One of the best ways to prevent the flu is getting your flu shot,” Hayden said. “We encourage everyone to get immunized. With our faculty and staff we have a team to actually come in on a designated day and provide the flu shots. Local clinics and businesses, such as Kroger, help us with this. We also encourage students and parents to please get the shot.”

Flu kit to teach children the importance of washing their hands
Flu kit to teach children the importance of washing their hands

Hayden always encourages doctor visits to the parents once the child presents any symptoms, especially during the height of the season.

“Once they hit my office and are showing symptoms, I have them put on a mask to try and stop the spread,” she said.

Hayden said Oxford teaches good hygiene and hand washing. And for the elementary schools, some of the nurses go in and do a hand washing demonstration for the children.

“We also have kits for the younger children that utilizes a black light and simulated germ lotion that can be rubbed on their hands and do an experiment with the effectiveness of hand washing,” Hayden said. “Prevention is definitely the key to staying healthy when it comes to the flu.”

Angela Rogalski is a HottyToddy.com staff reporter and can be reached at angela.rogalski@hottytoddy.com.

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