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DeKalb County school nurses remind community of illness prevention tactics

September 1, 2018

SYCAMORE – A sore throat here. A runny nose there. Maybe a case or two of strep or lice.

Kris Tilton, school nurse at Sycamore Middle School and Sycamore School District 427’s Life School, said the usual suspects that shock students’ immune systems are back with the start of a new school year. She said the common illnesses and symptoms can serve as a reminder for students to keep up good habits in order to remain healthy and ready to learn.

Tilton said schedule adjustments from the summer to the school year may be a reason why cold symptoms typically are what she sees during the first few weeks of school.

“It’s getting used to getting up early in the morning, getting good quality sleep at night, healthy breakfast, lunch – those kinds of things,” Tilton said.

Tilton and Patrice Pritchard, school nurse at North, West and South Prairie elementary schools and the Early Childhood Program within District 427, talked about typical illnesses and sickness prevention tactics Wednesday at Sycamore Middle School, 150 Maplewood Drive.

Tilton said cases such as strep throat or lice have been sporadic during the start of this school year, and that’s pretty typical for this time of year. In the past couple of years, she said, a few students would come to her office with strep throat within the first few weeks of school.

Tilton said it’s been a healthy start this year, however, and there haven’t been any abnormal numbers of strep, lice or other contagious cases in the middle school so far.

“So I would not call it an outbreak, by any means,” Tilton said.

Pritchard said she sees some strep cases at the beginning of the school year and germs starting to spread once doors open in August. But strep throat tends to be a lot more common in the spring, she said.

Pritchard said she hasn’t seen any fevers or vomiting at the elementary schools yet. She said she’s been pleasantly surprised to see fewer sick students coming into her office at the beginning of this school year.

“Again, the major thing for me has been the colds,” Pritchard said. “Coughs, colds.”

Taylor Forsyth, school nurse for DeKalb High School, said during a phone interview that she also sees a lot of colds at the beginning of the school year, along with fall allergy symptoms, sore throats and strep throat.

The Illinois Department of Health mandates that health care providers, including school nurses, report cases of conditions such as flu and strep throat. Forsyth said she reports fevers accompanied by cough or sore throat to the state daily, and the larger number of fevers usually don’t come until October.

“We’ve only had at the high school one or two fevers that we’ve noted at the beginning of this school year,” Forsyth said.

Tilton said her office doesn’t track colds or any related symptoms, but she does keep track of fevers or flu cases at Sycamore High School and at Life School within the Sycamore school district.

“But we have not had any of those yet, thankfully,” Tilton said.

Tilton said staying well-hydrated and trying to keep to a routine will help students stay healthy throughout the school year. She said students also should not share water bottles to help prevent the spread of illness. She add that parents should make sure children with fevers stay home and fever-free for at least 24 hours and keep emergency contact information up to date.

Forsyth said proper nutrition and eight to 10 hours of sleep a night can help prevent a student from getting sick easily, but proper hand-washing is the top illness prevention tactic.

“That’s the No. 1 way to prevent the majority of illnesses,” Forsyth said.

If students are not feeling well, Pritchard said, they should stay home from school, even if it’s a cold or nasty cough.

“If your child is not feeling good and cannot function to be at school to learn – which is our goal – they should be home,” Pritchard said.

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