School health coordinators discuss preventative measures on fighting the flu

TAZEWELL, VA (WVNS) -- 2018 has been a headache for Tazewell County schools as they join countless districts across the country in battling the flu epidemic.  Many parents look to hand sanitizer as an additional source of help for containing the disease. But to Tazewell school health coordinator Sandy VanDyke, it does not do the trick.

"Hand sanitizer itself does not remove," VanDyke said.  "It does not kill them all."

The Center for Disease Control's 2017 recommendations for when and how to use sanitizer says the product does not eliminate all types of germs, including the flu.  However, the CDC does state hand sanitizer with greater than 60-percent alcohol can be effective.  The same release from the CDC adds that alcohol based sanitizers have raised concerns about eye contamination, alcohol poisoning and flammability. 

Van Dyke does understand parents wanting to have something quickly accessible when their kids are in germy environments.

"On the playground, for example where soap and water may not be readily available, or in another classroom or the gym," VanDyke said. "So they may be thinking along that line, 'We'd just like to have this alternative available to children so that they can use it.'"

Although they welcome parents to send hand sanitizer with their kids to school, VanDyke stresses that the flu can be spread through more than just physical contact.

"A lot of these illnesses, especially like the flu, are spread by airborne droplets, so they go out into the setting and other people will be breathing that in," VanDyke said.  "That has nothing to do with something on your hands and being in contact."

Instead of sticking to sanitizer, they advise to wash your hands with warm water and soap, cover your mouth when you cough and sneeze, and use antibiotics as prescribed by your doctor.  She further states that the golden rule does not stop at just staying home from school.

"Stay away from public areas," VanDyke said.  "When you're sick, don't go to the grocery store, don't go shopping, don't go to church even. Whatever your social activities are, limit those during that time so that way, it protects our community as a whole."

Both VanDyke and the CDC say consuming sanitizer could cause alcohol poisoning, which could be fatal for younger students.

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