Preventing the Flu This Flu Season
The Benefits of Proper Handwashing and Vaccination in Preventing the Flu
By Mary Feak, BSN, RN, CPN TJS School Nurse
With the start of school comes the start of flu season. As kids socialize and play, they share more than toys and lessons. They are also very generous sharing germs with each other!
This year, we will be launching a handwashing campaign using fun and interactive methods to teach our kids about the importance of hand hygiene. I will also be working with the younger children on handwashing technique. Lower school students will get to watch glow-in-the-dark "germs" spread from student to student with simulated coughs and sneezes as well as through touching surfaces prior to hand hygiene. They will then get to see these "germs" disappear after washing their hands correctly. The older kids will also get to participate in a bit of a science experiment - watching what grows on potatoes that were touched with clean versus dirty hands. We are very excited for this glow in the dark Halloween-themed health lesson, so stay tuned for an upcoming blog post with looks into this fun workshop! However, while hand hygiene is the most important prevention mechanism to stop the spread of germs, it takes more than handwashing to prevent the flu.
One of the most important ways to prevent the illness is with vaccination. Last year, The Joy School provided flu shots for all of the staff and saw a drastic decrease in flu-related absences among faculty as well as students. TJS provided immunizations for staff again this year. We challenge you to do the same for our kiddos if they haven't yet gotten their flu shot!Flu shots are covered by most insurances and are available at many local pharmacies and doctor's offices. The flu shot contains an inactivated form of the Influenza virus. It can't give you the disease, because the bug is already killed! What the shot can do is expose your body to just enough of the bug for your immune system to create immunity against it. That means that roughly two weeks after receiving the shot, you are equipped to fight off the Flu without succumbing to its miserable symptoms!While the vaccine isn't foolproof, the World Health Organization does its best to estimate which strains will be prevalent each year. Occasionally they miss a strain. That being said, any prevention is better than none! If you do catch another strain, your course is likely to be milder due to the vaccine. The injection itself may cause you some mild symptoms upon receipt as your body fights off the weakened virus. But you cannot get the flu from the vaccine. The immunity starts about two weeks following the shot, so be careful to stay away from anyone with symptoms until then. The injection site may be sore, so I would recommend Tylenol or Motrin for any related discomfort. The flu is miserable as an adult, and it can be especially life threatening for children. As with any vaccine, your immunity does more than just protect you - it prevents you from unknowingly spreading the illness to infants, asthmatics, pregnant women, elderly, cancer patients and/or immunocompromised individuals around you. These individuals are at the highest risk of adverse outcomes from the disease, and they may be unable to receive the vaccine themselves. The best way to protect yourself, your child and your community is to get the vaccine each year and to practice good hygiene. Help us to remind your kiddos to wash hands and cover their coughs and sneezes!
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About the Author
Mary Feak is our new school nurse. A native Houstonian, Mary grew up in the Galleria area. One of her closest childhood friends attended The Joy School! Mary attended St.Michael School and St.Agnes Academy prior to pursuing her Bachelor's degree at Boston College. She graduated magna cum laude from Boston College in 2012 with a Bachelor's in Nursing and a minor in Hispanic Studies.
Mary comes to us from Texas Children's Hospital, where she spent six years as a staff nurse on a pediatric acute care floor. Following her first year at the hospital, Mary was awarded Rookie Nurse of the Year. During the subsequent years, Mary served as a leader on her unit as both a preceptor and Charge Nurse. She also led the hospital-wide Quality Practice Council as part of the nursing shared governance structure.
Mary is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Nursing, on the Primary Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner track at the University of Texas at Arlington. She lives near her childhood home with her husband, Dan, and their rescue Boxer, Sadie. She is very excited to be a part of The Joy School team!