Advice from nurses on the flu season



Pictured above is a venn diagram of COVID-19 and flu symptoms. Nurses at the high school are advising students to practice social distancing and to stay home when sick, even when it seems like something small to prevent any spread.

Every year it is important to be vaccinated with the flu shot. This year, with the double threat of COVID-19 and the flu, it’s even more crucial to both get vaccinated and utilize healthy practices.

Registered nurses Megan Day, Jill Seaman-Chandler and Tricia Laham have multiple strategies for preventing the spread of the flu and COVID-19. In order for students to remain safe, everyone needs to follow the nurses’ guidelines and monitor their health.

Two years ago, only 60 percent of people in Massachusetts got a flu shot according to USA Facts. With flu season approaching, it is required that students get their flu shots by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s mandated date of December 31.

“It used to be that maybe you woke up and you had a little bit of a sniffle, you didn’t feel 100 percent but you could go to school. You felt well enough to go to school,” Day said. “This year that’s really different. If you’re not feeling well at all, you shouldn’t come to school.”

The high school is working to prevent the spread of the flu by implementing four mitigation strategies according to Seaman-Chandler. One strategy is for students and staff to stay home if they are feeling at all sick. She says that the symptoms of regular cold viruses are very similar to that of COVID-19.

“Sometimes if people have a cough that is previously known or related to other conditions, then that can be ok,” Seaman-Chandler said. “But when you start to put any of those symptoms together, even if they seem mild on their own, a sore throat or a runny nose and a touch of a cough, little bit of stomach ache, muscle fatigue, all of those things are going to raise our concerns.”

Other mitigation strategies include good hand hygiene, wearing masks and maintaining a social distance of six feet. According to the CDC, by limiting the spread of the flu, people will be less burdensome on the healthcare system which is already strained from COVID-19.

COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts are higher than in September, according to the New York Times. Laham said that the reason for starting the hybrid system now, as opposed to the beginning of the school year, is due to the amount of planning and preparation it required.

“There’s the scheduling piece, which is incredibly complicated, and there’s getting all the safety pieces in place,” Laham said. “So making sure that we have PPE for those who need it, making sure that we have protocols in place dealing with ventilation issues in school and making sure that all the rooms have adequate ventilation, all those things took a long time, first to identify issues and then to address issues.”

The ventilation systems are enhanced by windows being open in the buildings according to Laham. In winter, students should be prepared to bring multiple layers to wear in school.

In addition, students should expect to take mask breaks and lunch breaks outside of the building.

“The best practice would really be outside six feet apart. But there are spaces set up inside for eating, like in the cafeteria and the auditorium. Outside is preferable, but not always possible,” Day said.

Day, Seaman-Chandler and Laham all said that the most important things students can do to protect themselves and others is to be aware of the state of their health and to partake in the mitigation strategies.

“We are really, truly, all in this together and we each have to do our part,” Laham said. “It’s like a puzzle: if each person does their part, then the pieces of the puzzle fit together and we are much safer and healthier.”