Question of the Week

December 8, 2003


Concerns about a worse than usual flu season, a vaccine shortage, and recent flu deaths among children that have made the news, have some parents--and children--on heightened alert.

"An early strong start to the flu season and the deaths of at least five children in Colorado from the flu highlight the importance of getting a flu shot for at-risk children. Dr. Louis Cooper, a representative of the American Academy of Pediatrics, tells The Early Show co-anchor Rene Syler it is too early to explain the deaths in Colorado. To put it in perspective he says, 'Children get influenza every year. Maybe 30 percent of the kids in school will get the flu. We always have some hospitalizations and we certainly have extra deaths. Most of those deaths are in folks like me or in people who have some kind of underlying condition: people with sickle-cell disease, chronic heart disease, diabetes and so forth.' The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says this flu season could be worse than usual, partly because the vaccine currently used does not fully match a strain of the virus that is in circulation."

While, "[m]aybe 30 percent of the kids in school will get the flu," this is nothing new. Each year, thousands die or are hospitalized, but millions more get the flu and recover completely with rest and care at home. Yes, at home.

There can often be the temptation to "tough it out" and continue to go to work or school. There is that report due, that test in second period, or the hassle of trying to catch up after being gone. There are some things that it's just not nice to share. So, how do you know if you are just too sick to go, or if you really should be at school?

One district suggests:
"Parents and students often have questions about when it is appropriate to stay home from school because of illness. The following guidelines will help with your decision. Your child should stay home:
-If your child has had a temperature of 100.00 degrees or higher in the past 24 hours.
-If you child has vomited or has had diarrhea within the past 24 hours.
-If your child has an uncontrolled cough.
-If your child has been diagnosed with strep throat and has been on an antibiotic for less than 24 hours.
-If your child feels too ill to remain in class and benefit from attending school.
-If there is risk to other students from being exposed to your child's illness."

Other things to consider:
Would you want the people who sit near you in class to come to school if they felt like you do now? Even if you aren't at risk for serious complications, can you be confident that the people around you who will be sharing your germs will recover as easily? Even if you do decide that you are too sick to go to school or work, then what? If your parents need to be at work, and you are too sick to be around others, are you healthy enough to stay home alone? What are your alternatives? For a fee, some families in one city now have an additional option.

"The Estelle F. Kaufman Sick Child Care Center is on the ground floor of the Bowery Professional Building on the Akron Children's Hospital campus.
The center is open to the general public from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Friday....Space is limited and is filled on a first-come, first-served basis. To attend, children must have symptoms that would keep them out of school or day care."

While the Sick Child Care Center may work for some, it is not an option for all families--or in all areas. Whether it is the flu, or any other illness, what does getting sick mean for you?

Questions of the Week:
What should you do if you get sick? What could you do? What would you do? Given your family, school, and work situations, what are your choices? What would be best for you? What would be best for those you have contact with throughout the day? Should anyone (schools? hospitals? cities?) have the responsibility to ensure options for those in the community who are sick, or should it be strictly the responsibility of individuals and their families to take care of themselves and help prevent further spread of whatever illnesses they might have?

Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.

I look forward to reading what you have to say.

[email protected]
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum

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