Preventing the spread of common illnesses in schools

Caring For Our Kids

As a variety of illnesses continue to close East Tennessee school systems, many parents are concerned about the best way to keep their kids well.

Dr. Ryan Redman, ER director at East Tennesse Children’s Hospital, stopped by the WATE 6 On Your Side studios to explain  what works and what doesn’t in preventing the spread of common illnesses in schools. 

 According to Redman, common illnesses that spread through schools are colds, flu, strep throat, and stomach viruses. 

Among the best ways to prevent the spread of these, vaccinations. 

“It’s not too late to get a flu vaccine. It takes two weeks to become effective,” Redman says. “Hand-washing or using antibacterial hand gel if soap and water isn’t available, as germs live everywhere and can easily be transferred from your hands to your mouth, nose and eyes. Bacteria can live on surfaces for a while.”

He also advises that kids watch what they put in their mouths, and to NEVER share food, drinks or utensils with others. Keep objects like pencils/pens out of their mouths, too.

The other main thing, Redman says, is simply keeping kids at home when kids are sick.

“Closing schools is a good idea when lots of kids are sick. Thorough cleaning and even just time to allow bacteria on surfaces to die can help prevent the spread of illness,” he said. “Washing items that have been at school, wash their backpacks, coats, scarves, etc. to be sure you don’t bring the germs from school into your home.”

A child should definitely stay home and refrain from all group activities if they have diarrhea or vomiting, fever, are lethargic or unable to play and perform tasks, or have a known contagious illness like the flu or strep throat, Redman emphasized. 

Take your child to the doctor if they are wheezing or struggling to get air in. A child who is really struggling to breathe or turning blue should come to the ER; also, if they’re running a fever with stiff neck or severe headache, or have a fever that persists for more than 24 hours.

So, to recap, take your child to the ER if they are experiencing: 

  •   Persistent vomiting or diarrhea
  •    If strep throat is suspected (symptoms include swollen tonsils with white or yellow dots)
  •   Dehydration (If a child won’t drink or eat they can become dehydrated very quickly and should see a doctor). 

These steps and more are ways to prevent the spread of these common illnesses and make our schools safer with healthier kids. 

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