Don't get sick at school

August 28, 1998

Keeping the germs at bayBy KATE COLEMAN / Staff Writer

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer [enlarge]

School's in.

That phrase doesn't have the quite the ring that "school's out" does.

Nevertheless, kids are back in the classroom, all together, sharing stories of summer vacations, sharing learning, sharing germs.

Catching colds, viruses and common flus is "almost inevitable" when kids are together in an instructional setting, says Dr. Robert Parker, Health Officer for Washington County Health Department. Late summer and early fall are peak times for catching hand, foot and mouth disease, an ailment brought on by a virus. Most common in kids younger than 10, symptoms can include lesions in the mouth and throat resulting in a sore throat and a rash on palms of hands and soles of feet.

How can kids avoid getting sick?

--cont. from lifestyle--

It's back to basics, according to Parker:

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* " NATURALSIZEFLAG="0" ALIGN="BOTTOM"> Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. Use a handkerchief.


HEIGHT="6" ALT="* " NATURALSIZEFLAG="0" ALIGN="BOTTOM"> Wash your hands frequently with soap and water.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* " NATURALSIZEFLAG="0" ALIGN="BOTTOM"> Stay home if you have a fever.

You probably learned these things before you were old enough to go to school. But they still apply and bear repeating.

Pat Craven welcomes 21 second-graders to her Fountaindale Elementary School classroom in Hagerstown today. In her 17 years of primary school experience - this is her 12th year at Fountaindale - Craven knows that kids and teachers alike will have "first-day jitters."

She also knows that there are colds to be caught. She says her students change classes all day long. That's a lot of different little hands on the doorknob.

Handwashing is made convenient with the little bathroom area right in her classroom. Big boxes of tissues are on each student's supply list and are placed around the classroom. Talk about washing hands and covering mouths while sneezing and coughing is part of of the beginning of the year rules, Craven says.

Although she occasionally will need to provide a tactful "Do you need a tissue?" or "Please get a tissue," Craven says the kids understand. "They pretty much get it."

Under Maryland law, Washington County Board of Education and Washington County Health Department have joint responsibility for the health program in the local schools, according to Phyllis Eshleman, program manager, School Health Service of Washington County Health Department.

There are registered nurses responsible for clusters of schools, and each public school in the county is staffed with a health assistant for the full student day.

There's an emphasis on promoting wellness and disease prevention in the school health service.

"A healthy lifestyle provides the maximum resistance against the onset of viruses and colds," Eshleman says. This includes eating healthful food - including a good breakfast - and getting adequate rest.

If prevention fails, and students aren't feeling well, they should go to their school health offices for appraisal.

"We have a warm, inviting environment, I hope," Eshleman says.

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