How to Combat School Absenteeism Due to Illness

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An illness spreading around the classroom can mean more than just a few sick students. In fact, in January of 2018, at least eight school districts were forced to close for one or more school days in the state of Oklahoma due to widespread flu symptoms. These school districts closed in order to prevent further spread of a particularly deadly strain of the flu, and also because of the sheer number of absent students.

Many schools have quotas regarding the number of students that are in attendance on any given day in order for the school day to count towards their required number of school days, and in many places, too many students (and teachers) were absent for the school days to count.

During this flu season, over 70 Oklahomans died and more than 2,000 were hospitalized. This epidemic highlighted the vital need for flu prevention in our schools.

Schools are also a breeding ground for bacteria and many surfaces are teeming with bacteria and viruses that can cause many students and teachers to become ill and miss school. So what are the best ways to cut down on illness spreading through schools?

The Importance of Hand Washing and Clean Hands

What’s one of the biggest ways that students spread germs? Dirty hands. When these dirty hands come into contact with surfaces like desks, pencil sharpeners, and water fountains, it creates a perfect breeding ground for germs. Kindergartners can contact up to 12 colds per year, while older students may end up with as many as 7 colds per year. The virus that causes upper-respiratory illness can live on surfaces for several hours, just waiting to infect students.

So what’s the best way to prevent bacteria and viruses from spreading to every student in the class? Regular hand washing, proper use of antibacterial hand sanitizer, and daily cleaning and sanitizing of high-traffic areas like doorknobs, water fountains, pencil sharpeners, keyboards, faucet handles, and desks. Hand washing alone can reduce gastrointestinal illness-related absenteeism in schoolchildren by 29-57%, and regular use of hand sanitizer has been shown to reduce the number of students who were absent more than 4 days as a result of illness by 66%.

A study conducted in 2010 found that not only were norovirus (the stomach flu) and the influenza virus were found on 22% and 50% of surfaces in a school, respectively. Not only did they find high numbers of germs on school surfaces, but they also discovered that regular use of sanitizing wipes (ie. Clorox wipes) cut down on illness-related absences dramatically.

Children who were not in these regularly-cleaned classrooms were 2.32 times more likely to be absent, and for longer periods of time than the children who were in classrooms where surfaces were wiped down on a daily basis.

Easy Access to Health Care

When flu season hits, it has a huge impact on absenteeism in your school. Parents may have a hard time balancing their work schedules with finding time to take their child to the doctor. Coordinating treatment information between doctor, parent, and school can be tricky.  

With in-school care from TEAM Clinics, not only are children provided care as soon as symptoms develop, but school nurses and teachers are more in the loop; they know what illnesses are spreading through the school, and how better to prevent them.

Catch illness early with access to quick, high quality qualified medical care, right in the nurse’s office with TEAM Clinics. By providing instant access for parents and medical professionals alike, a healthcare provider can make a diagnosis, prescribe any necessary medications, and create a back-to-school plan for the student without leaving the school building.  

This means students get healthy faster and are much less likely to spread an illness to their peers, cutting down on absenteeism. Here’s the best part: TEAM Clinics is covered by most insurance companies.

See how TEAM Clinics can have an impact on your school, keeping your students in the classroom learning, where they belong. Contact us today for more information on how in-school care can cut down on absenteeism by promoting healthy kids.

Trevor Nutt