WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - As the school year gets into full swing, health is a top priority for staff at West Lafayette School Corporation. Nurse Beth Bangs has worked with West Lafayette Schools for fifteen years. She's been a registered nurse for 39 years and is currently a nurse at West Lafayette Intermediate School.
"This is a public health issue," she said.
According to the Center for Disease Control, nearly 22 million days of school are lost to the common cold. Nurse Bangs has three things that are her top rules for back-to-school health.
"It's been a long summer, they've had a great time," she said. "But kids don't get enough sleep and it's really important that we see them get back into a routine, a habit of getting enough sleep every night."
She said she regularly has kids come to her after a weekend that say they are exhausted from their activities. She stressed that it's important that kids are active, but that they also have time to rest up before Monday.
Melissa Luebbe has a first-grader at West Lafayette Elementary School. She makes sure her kids have a regular sleep routine.
"Going back to school can be really stressful," she said. "My kids are going to bed early, at a good time, they're drinking tons of water. Henry's teacher encourages them to keep a water bottle on their desk."
Proper nutrition is Nurse Bangs' second rule.
"All the classes usually have snack time, and it's something healthy. We don't want to load them up with cookies or potato chips," she said.
Luebbe said getting her young kids to eat their vegetables is still a struggle, but she gets them involved with their backyard garden and encourages them to make healthy choices.
The third and probably most important rule is proper handwashing. A study published in the American Journal of Infection Control found some shocking results: only 58% of female and 48% of male middle and high school students washed their hands after using the bathroom. Of these, only 33% of the females and 8% of the males used soap.
Luebbe said her son is already developing good handwashing habits.
"When Henry gets off the bus, the first thing he does when he comes in is run upstairs and washes his hands," she said. "That's a habit that he's gotten into that I'm very thankful for."
While good sleep, nutrition and handwashing are good everyday practices to keep us healthy, one thing strong is needed to contain the sometimes deadly disease.
"I can't stress enough how important begin immunized is," said Nurse Bangs.
They hold a flu vaccine day for staff, so teachers can easily get their vaccination. She said it's her job to go through and make sure that all the kids are up-to-date on their vaccinations. Sixth graders are especially important because that's the age they are required to get a T-DAP and Meningitis vaccine. She sends out letters in May reminding parents to take care of getting the vaccines over the summer.
"I've only got through the M's and I already have 50 students who aren't up-to-date," she said. "Those parents will be getting a letter from me and their child could get pulled from school."
There are some students who attend WLIS whose parents have excused them from getting vaccines. Nurse Bangs explained WLSC protocol for dealing with these students in the event of a disease outbreak.
"We ask them every year to provide what we call a religious exemption with the understanding that if there is an outbreak, that their child will be out of school also for fear of them catching it and spreading it too," she said.
Luebbe said her children are vaccinated. She said her worry about her children's health at school is more general.
"Every parent I think lives in a little bit in fear of what the next virus or stomach virus that their kid will come home with," she said.
Nurse Bangs said parents should familiarize themselves with school protocol for sickness, like keeping kids home if they are showing signs of illness.
"Fever free for 24 hours before they come back to school and that includes not using Tylenol or Advil," she said. "Same thing with vomiting, keeping food down for 24 hours."
She encourages parents to reach out with questions
"You have our phone number our email, communicate with the school nurse and let her know what's going on," she said.
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