School nurse stresses the importance of dressing warmly, washing hands

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Alice Echo-News Journal

Although she didn't want to say the flu is the main culprit, Stefanie Martinez, R.N. with Alice ISD, did say that she has seen an increase in the number of students suffering from cold and flu symptoms in recent weeks.

'On the days where we have seen a lot of students out, many of them had fever, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. We've also seen a large number of sore throats. I'm sure the weather has a lot to do with it, Martinez said.

During the course of the week, Martinez reports to Salazar, Hillcrest and Mary R. Garcia elementary schools.

She has the advantage of being privy to the fluctuations in childhood illness from several different areas in town, and she has seen a connection between the cold weather as of late and rise in illnesses.

She said though that many of those aliments are preventable.

'I encourage parents to have the students bring their jackets to school and dress warmly, she said. 'On the school's side, we try to keep the students as warm as possible, especially on colder days, where we bring them indoors for P.E. On days where the weather is very cold, we try to keep them indoors as much as possible.

The school district does have a policy when it comes to student illness. Martinez said that if the student shows signs of fever, nausea or vomiting during the course of the day, the child is sent home.

She said it is important for parents to keep their child home if they are exhibiting such symptoms.

Those students would not only be unproductive at school because of their condition, Martinez said, but could potentially spread their illness to other children.

As a nurse, she feels that the flu shot does help with prevention, but there is a less painful and simpler way of handling flu germs.

'Really the best way to stop the spread of anything is frequent hand washing, she said. 'As a school nurse, I wash my hands all the time. It really limits the spread of germs.

'If a child blows his nose, then he needs to wash his hands. Most classes have hand gel, which works really well. Many of the classrooms also have sinks, and the teachers do a lot to stress hand washing with their students. I couldn't stress hand washing enough, she said.