Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Influenza in Montessori Schools – Tips for a Flu Free, Stay Healthy Plan

NAMC montessori schools and influenza tips for flu free stay healthy plan girl washing hands
Back to school this year is more than just new lunch boxes and backpacks. Now, more than ever, parents and teachers are stressing the importance of hand washing, not just as proper hygiene, but as disease prevention. With the outbreak last spring of the H1N1 virus, people all over the world are voicing concern about this highly communicable illness.
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

NAMC montessori schools and influenza tips for flu free stay healthy plan sneezing into elbow
  • 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.
Administrators should also review what to do should the H1N1 virus prove more wide-spread or dangerous. Reactive closures might be needed when your Montessori early childhood program cannot maintain normal functioning, for example, due to high staff absenteeism. Should you need to close your school, it is recommended you do so for at least 5-7 calendar days, with infant rooms closed longer. You should also encourage and work with parents in your Montessori community to develop alternate childcare plans in case of the need to close the school.

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
OR
  • 1 tablespoon bleach
  • 1 quart cool water
Recipe for Weaker Bleach Disinfecting Solution
(For use on toys, eating utensils, etc.)
  • 1 tablespoon bleach
  • 1 gallon cool water
Source:
Centers for Disease Control

For more information on Montessori health and hygiene activities, see NAMC's curriculum:
As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Wednesday, September 9, 2009.

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