Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Swine Flu (N1H1 Flu) is Hitting Kids: Please Take Your Child’s Symptoms Seriously

I am not the type to worry about flues and colds, but something happened yesterday that opened my eyes about the severity of the flu. In the preschool where I teach, we had our back-to-school meeting. Our Preschool Director presented the guidelines for how we will handle kids’ illnesses this year. Unlike previous years, there will be no latitude given with regard to a sick kid. That means that if a teacher suspects a child is getting sick, or hasn’t been home long enough to get over being sick, it is our responsibility to ask the parent to take the child home. The swine flu is contagious, mostly affects young people, and is expected to affect about half of the US population. Teachers are on the front lines of protecting our students as best we can.

What happened next is what shocked me into reality. A guest speaker listened in on this conversation as she waited to start her presentation. Fighting tears, she shared her heartbreaking story about her five year old granddaughter. The child went to preschool on a Friday, a healthy, happy kid. She developed a sore throat over the weekend, and didn’t wake up Monday morning. Her cause of death was the flu. That is certainly enough to make us all take this more seriously.

Many families need to have their children in school, and a sick day brings all kinds of problems and stress. Who will watch the kids? Will their boss let them off work? Can they reschedule an important meeting? It is certainly not easy, especially when there is no warning. Even with the best of intentions, some parents hopefully believe that their child’s sniffle is no big deal, and that a little Tylenol and cough medicine will get him through his day at preschool.

The problem is that you are exposing him to all the other kids in his class who will become susceptible to catching his illness. I urge parents to take this seriously, for the protection of their children and others.

I remember another story I heard about a parent who showed up at school to administer medicine to her child, but took him in the bathroom where no one would know. When his teacher asked him what his mom was doing with him in the bathroom, he admitted that she gave him medicine but said his mother told him not to tell his teachers. Clearly, this parent knew that what she was doing was wrong, and she asked her child to lie for her. She was putting her child at risk because kids who are sick have less immunity to other illnesses and can get sicker. She was also putting his classmates at risk.

So, if your child’s teacher says that she thinks you need to take your child home because he looks like he’s getting sick, take a deep breath and think about what she is saying. Yes, you will be inconvenienced. But think about how great it will be to take care of your child, maybe play some Go Fish!, watch a favorite movie, or just let him snuggle in your lap. Once his fever is gone for at least 24 hours and he is feeling himself again, everyone will be better off for his teacher’s vigilance.

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