Among those at highest risk are children who are younger than five years old as well as their caregivers. Infants under six months are at highest risk, as they are unable to receive flu vaccines.
All Montessori schools, especially those with programs for children five and younger, should examine and revise, if necessary, their crisis plans. Contingency plans should be put in place in case of excessive staff absences. Sick leave policies might need to be revised, allowing for staff members to have both an adequate recovery period as well as allowing them to stay home with sick family members.
Here are some recommendations to safeguard your Montessori community, based on the guidelines issued by the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC):
Influenza in Montessori Schools – Tips for a Flu Free, Stay Healthy Plan
- Get vaccinated against H1N1 and seasonal flu. Remember, all children and many staff members in early childhood settings will qualify for the first round of H1N1 vaccines. The H1N1 vaccine should be available in fall 2009 and will likely require 2 doses of vaccine, separated by at least 3 weeks.
- Teach and encourage proper hygiene:
- Wash hands often with soap and warm water.
- Keep hands away from the face.
- Cover noses and mouths when coughing or sneezing, using a shirt sleeve or elbow if no tissue is available. (Children should be taught not to cough or sneeze into their hands.)
- Clean the environment and materials regularly. Areas and items that are dirty should be cleaned immediately. All areas should be cleaned and disinfected with 3% hydrogen peroxide or a bleach solution daily, especially materials and high-use areas.
- Stay home when sick. Symptoms of 2009 H1N1 flu virus can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue, and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting. Children and caregivers with flu-like illness should remain at home and away from others until at least 24 hours after they are free of fever (100° F [37.8° C] or greater when measured orally), or signs of a fever, without the use of fever-reducing medications. (The CDC recommends, with severe flu, keeping sick children home for 7 days after the onset of symptoms.)
- Observe children for changes in behavior or other signs of illness.
- Separate ill children (and staff) until they can be sent home.
- Get early treatment for flu-like symptoms. Early treatment (within 48 hours of the onset of illness) with antiviral medications can decrease the risk of severe illness from influenza.
- Encourage keeping children at home if there are others in the household with the H1N1 flu.
Recipe for Bleach Disinfecting Solution
(For use in bathrooms, diapering areas, etc.) Note: Please use protective gloves when handling any bleach solution.
- 1/4 cup bleach
- 1 gallon of cool water
- 1 tablespoon bleach
- 1 quart cool water
(For use on toys, eating utensils, etc.)
- 1 tablespoon bleach
- 1 gallon cool water
Centers for Disease Control
For more information on Montessori health and hygiene activities, see NAMC's curriculum:
- Preschool/Kindergarten curriculum - see Practical Life manual
- Lower Elementary curriculum - see Introduction to Health Sciences, Art & Music manual
- Upper Elementary curriculum - see Health Sciences manual
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Wednesday, September 9, 2009.