Flu In Schools and Child Care Centers

Schools and Child Care Centers

Influenza can cause mild to severe respiratory illness and can even lead to death.

Children — especially children under 2 years of age — face higher than normal risk of complications.

Make sure teachers and caregivers at your school or childcare center are familiar with the symptoms of flu as well as urgent warning signs that require immediate medical attention.

Help Prevent the Spread of Flu

Here are ways that your school and child care center can help prevent and slow the spread of flu among students, staff and families:

  • Encourage staff and students to learn the facts about vaccination and ask to be vaccinated against seasonal flu.
  • Advise parents to talk with their health care provider about getting their families immunized.
  • Tell staff and parents about Web sites that can help them find DHEC flu clinics and locate clinics offered by other community providers.
  • Follow the DHEC exclusion criteria (pdf) for students and staff. Require children and staff to stay home if they have a fever of 100°F or higher with a cough or sore throat. Require them to stay home until their fever has been gone for 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medications. In most cases children and staff with the flu will miss 3 to 5 days.
  • Separate ill students and staff from the rest of the school population until they can go home.
  • Recommend that staff and parents of children who have flu-like symptoms see their health care provider right away if they are at high risk for complications from the flu. Early treatment with antiviral medications may help lessen the symptoms. Those at high risk include:
    • Children younger than 5 years old
    • Children younger than 18 years who are on long-term aspirin treatment
    • Children and adults who have chronic conditions such as asthma and diabetes or other lung, heart, liver, blood, neurologic, neuromuscular, or metabolic disorders
    • Children and adults with weak immune systems
    • Pregnant women, and
    • People aged 50 years or older.
  • If you don't already have one, establish a list of on-call workers to cover for staff who are ill.
  • Consider how policies can be changed to support rather than penalize staff who must miss work because they are ill with the flu. Keep in mind that when symptoms are mild, the employee may not need to see a health care provider.
  • Encourage staff and students to wash their hands often with soap and water. Ask them to get into the habit of washing their hands for about as long as it takes to sing the Happy Birthday song twice.
  • Child care centers: Check children daily for signs or symptoms of illness.
  • Ask staff and students to cover their nose and mouth with a tissue when they cough or sneeze and throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Encourage staff and students to eat a healthy diet, exercise and get plenty of rest.
  • Frequently wipe down commonly touched surfaces like stairway railings, telephones, door handles and toys. Otherwise, follow your normal housekeeping routine.
  • Follow the advice offered on the CDC's website on How to clean and disinfect schools to help prevent the spread of flu.
  • Download, post and distribute free DHEC flu materials
  • Educate parents, staff and students about the dangers of giving aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) to children or teenagers who have the flu. This can cause a rare but serious illness called Reye's syndrome.
  • Consider selective school dismissal in flu outbreaks, especially if your school has a sizable number of medically fragile or pregnant students.

Influenza Vaccine

Flu vaccines are your staff and students' best protection against the flu. The CDC has produced information sheets, called Vaccine Information Statements (VISs), to explain the benefits and risks of the seasonal vaccines.
DHEC encourages all South Carolinians to get vaccinated against influenza.

School Flu Vaccine Clinics

DHEC is partnering with many school districts to offer flu vaccines to students. If your child's school is participating, you will receive a parent packet with specific details.  For more information, visit the School Flu Vaccine Clinics page.

Helpful Links for School Flu Planning

K-12 Schools

Cleaning, Disinfecting

If you have additional questions about the flu or flu vaccine, please call 1-800-27SHOTS (1-800-277-4687).