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Good habits key to keeping students healthy

It’s a battle waged every year, with victims displaying the telltale signs: fevers, congestion, nasty coughs, aching bodies.

Yes, cold and flu season is here again. And with schools being a prime breeding ground for the viruses, Park City School District nurses say it’s important for parents to know how to keep their children healthy.

Perhaps the biggest step in preventing students from catching a nasty bug is to ensure they’re doing the basics. Gina Agy, the longest-tenured school nurse in Park City, said it’s crucial for children to cover their coughs — the proper way is to cough into their arms, not their hands — wash their hands, eat well and get plenty of sleep.

"I think it’s about good habits initially," she said. "I know that sounds real basic, but that’s the bottom line. The basics of daily living are very important."

Anne Alexander said it’s easier to get older students to form those habits, so parents of younger children need to be especially attentive.

"A first-grader is probably not good at all at covering their cough or washing their hands," she said.

The nurses also encourage students to receive flu shots when a doctor recommends it. They can be found at several locations in town, including the Summit County Health Department.

Should students get sick anyway, the next move for parents is also very important: Keep them out of school. Nicole Kennedy, another nurse who oversees Park City schools, said viruses can spread easily in classrooms, meaning a contagious student — even one who is not presently sick — is a significant risk to his classmates.

"Some kids can be carriers, spreading it, and not know it because they don’t have symptoms," she said, adding that schools in the district don’t have facilities to treat a high volume of sick children. "And viruses can live for six hours on a doorknob. So another kid can come along a while later and get that virus."

The nurses said the No. 1 sign for parents to look for when evaluating the health of their students is a fever. Children with high temperatures are typically at the height of contagiousness. They should not return to school until 24 hours after a fever and other symptoms have gone away.

While the cold and flu are the heavy hitters this time of year, other viruses and bugs also go around. The nurses said strep throat is always a concern, and lately they have seen a rash of students heading home with stomach problems. Because once one student catches something, it’s almost inevitable that more will follow.

"Germs," Agy said, "spread so quickly at school."

More information on student health can be found at the Park City School District website, pcschools.us.


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