DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – With schools back in session and common illness beginning to circulate among children, healthcare providers are already seeing an increase in the number of families seeking treatment for their children. Many of those healthcare professionals on the frontlines include school nurses.
“This is normally supposed to be kind of our calm before the winter storm. And now we’re hitting the storm a number of months earlier than what we typically see,” said Lisa Ziemnick, division chief of Kids Express and urgent care for Dayton Children’s.
With common seasonal illnesses like RSV, strep throat and the flu sharing symptoms with COVID, she says healthcare workers’ jobs have become increasingly challenging.
“You can’t just necessarily look at a child and say, ‘You don’t have COVID, you do have COVID. You have a cold, you have allergies.’ So it makes it difficult for a school nurse to know who to send home, who not to, who to quarantine and who not.”
However, she said there are certain signs to pay attention to in order to determine when children need to be treated and when they don’t.
“If a child has a fever, absolutely they need to stay home. That’s one of our key indicators of the child [being] contagious at the time, so they need to stay home until they’re fever-free for 24 hours. If they’re feeling wonderful and they have a little bit of a runny nose, it’s a judgment call.”
If your child looks ill, has difficulty breathing or is not behaving like themselves, she said there should be no hesitation about consulting a school nurse or health professional. But the best course of action to avoid overwhelming nursing and healthcare staff, she said, “is that anyone over the age of 12 really needs to get vaccinated. Because that helps decrease the number of different [illnesses] that they could have.”
Medical professionals say they do want families to find a balance between being proactive against COVID-19 and ensuring kids are spending enough time in the classroom, especially since absence policies have not changed locally or at the state level. However, guidance has been released regarding how to handle COVID and schooling.
A fact sheet for K-12 quarantine requirements and expectations from the Ohio Department of Health can be found here.
A quarantine flow chart can be found here.
COVID-19 prevention guidance for K-12 schools can be found here.