It’s that time of year again—for holidays and family and all the trappings of the season. And, unfortunately, for colds and coughs and stomach bugs and the flu as well.
In the effort to help keep McKinney ISD students healthy during the winter months, the district would like to offer a couple of practical reminders—and some guidelines for when you should keep your child at home if they do become sick.
The first and simplest step to prevent illness is hand-washing. As a matter of fact, it’s so important that there is actually a National Hand-Washing Awareness Week (Dec. 1-7), a Global Hand-Washing Day (Oct. 15), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has implemented a national hand-washing campaign called “Life is Better With Clean Hands.”
Why all this obsession over hand-washing? Because according to studies cited by the CDC, hand-washing, among its other illness-preventing benefits, “reduces absenteeism due to gastrointestinal illness in schoolchildren by 29-57 percent.”
“Hand-washing can help prevent illness,” the CDC says plainly on their hand-washing web page. “It involves five simple and effective steps (Wet, Lather, Scrub, Rinse, Dry) you can take to reduce the spread of diarrheal and respiratory illness so you can stay healthy. Regular hand-washing, particularly before and after certain activities, is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick and prevent the spread of germs to others. It’s quick, it’s simple and it can keep us all from getting sick.”
The CDC elaborates on their five hand-washing steps:
—Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap and apply soap.
—Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
—Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
—Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
—Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
The CDC says that hand-washing should take place before, during and/or after a host of activities such as: preparing food; eating food; caring for someone who is sick; treating a cut or wound; using the toilet; changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet; blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing; touching an animal, animal feed or animal waste; handling pet food or treats; and touching garbage.
As obvious as most of these examples seem as moments that would prompt hand-washing, the washing part, unfortunately, doesn’t always happen.
The CDC recommends a family approach in which parents 1) teach kids the five steps to effective hand-washing, 2) give children frequent reminders to wash and 3) lead by example.
When hand-washing is not possible, the CDC recommends using hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. They point out that sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands in many situations, although they are not as effective as simple soap and water.
But, they do offer three steps for effective use of hand sanitizer:
—Apply the gel product to the palm of one hand (read the label to learn the correct amount).
—Rub your hands together.
—Rub the gel over all the surfaces of your hands and fingers until your hands are dry. This should take around 20 seconds.
Children’s Health offers additional illness prevention advice such as teaching kids to cough into their elbow, to cover their nose and mouth with a tissue before they sneeze and to refrain from sharing food or utensils with classmates.
Despite our best efforts, kids still get sick, and sometimes it’s difficult to know whether they are ok to go to school, or if they should stay home.
The MISD Student Handbook provides important information about times when students must stay home from school due to illness:
—Temperature of 100.0 degrees or more. Student must be fever free for 24 hours, without medication, before re-entry. (Texas Administrative Code).
—Vomiting (not related to a single event such as gagging, positioning, mucus, running after eating, or eating spicy food). Student must be symptom free for 24 hours, without medication before re-entry.
—Diarrhea of two or more loose or watery stools; All students must be diarrhea free without the use of medications before returning to school (Texas Administrative Code).
—Diabetes with a blood sugar greater than 400 and positive ketones or inadequate supplies to treat diabetes at school.
—Pain and/or swelling at angle of jaw
—Undetermined rash over any part of the body accompanied by fever
—Under diagnosed scaly patches on the body or scalp
—Red, draining eyes
—Intense itching with signs and symptoms of secondary infection
—Open, draining lesions or wounds
—For any infection, antibiotics must be taken for a minimum of 24 hours prior to re-admittance to school
—A physician’s letter to readmit to school will not supersede the Department of State Health Services (DSHS)
There is also a wealth of information to be found on the MISD Health Services and Wellness web page.
Nobody wants kids to get sick, obviously, and doing what we can to keep our own children well helps keep other MISD kids well, too.
Just a few, simple steps can go a long way toward accomplishing that goal.
For complete information and guidelines regarding student illness, please consult the MISD Student Handbook.
Shane Mauldin is the MISD communications coordinator.