Often, the first alert a school gets that flu season has arrived is in the nurse’s office. A steady stream of students shows up with the common refrain “I feel ache-y” and out comes the thermometer. By this time, the virus has already had its chance to spread to every child-height surface in the classrooms, school buses and cafeteria. Wouldn’t it be more effective to stop the spread of the germs before they ever got to school?
Predictive Analytics – The Bigger Picture
Data-driven analysis is proving useful in preventing the outbreak of influenza epidemics. Social media, comparison of electronic health records and traditional influenza-tracking systems all play a role in creating heat maps of every state. Researchers are actively involved in interpreting this real-time information to track disease outbreaks.
While this is all well and good, school authorities and parents are more interested in their own microcosm. Flu outbreaks typically cause higher absenteeism among the student community than any other group. These sick days are disruptive to both parents and the school. Parents often have to find childcare for their sick kids while schools have to deal with the challenges of interrupted learning, (exacerbating) their already crunched schedules.
Smart Thermometers – Revealing School Health Trends
Sometimes, the simplest things can make a vital difference. The first thing a parent turns to is a thermometer when their child comes to them complaining “I don’t feel so good.” Digital technology, combined with this diagnostic device, has given rise to the next generation of thermometers: Smart Thermometers.
The smart thermometer acts as a regular thermometer, but it has one major difference. It can be plugged into your smartphone and can read the data directly into an app. Each family member can have their own profile and this can be connected to a school group. Data is shared anonymously, but the collection of this data helps the school and parents to get a better idea of the health trends happening in their ecosystem. Parents and teachers in the school group can get an alert saying something like “Five students from the fourth grade have reported high fevers and flu symptoms.”
The smart thermometer goes even one step further; it can advise parents on what they should do. This could be ‘keep your child at home and have him/her drink lots of fluids’ or ‘it is best to visit your doctor’. While it is not a diagnostic tool, it can provide sound guidance.
With greater adoption of smart thermometers, we will see a new era in healthcare. An era where taking pre-emptive measures to curb the spread of disease will help control outbreaks.
What We Can Do Once Flu Cases Are Reported
Flu season is from November to March, however, the flu can be contracted year round. Once we receive a heads-up that flu season has arrived, there are a few things we can do:
- The flu virus is an airborne infection that is also passed through hand contact. You will be amazed at how many people (not just children) put their hands in their mouth and not just when eating. Scrub your hands vigorously with soap and water often, especially if someone in your family is sick.
- When sneezing, use tissues or sneeze into the crook of your arm. Be careful where you throw those tissues, too!
- Stay at home if you have symptoms of influenza, such as fever, chills or aching.
- Avoid crowded places and, if you are ill, stay out of contact with others.
- Annual flu shots can also be preventative. It takes about 2 weeks for the vaccine to create the antibodies needed to protect you. Due to this, the best time to take a flu shot is before the end of October.
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Lacey earned a B.A. from Baylor University. Sic'em!
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