School Health

Asthma Peaks in September

By: Sally Schoessler, MSEd, BSN, RN -- Director of Education, Allergy & Asthma Network

September – the temperatures start to drop, there’s a crispness in the air and the hallways of our schools are once again filled with activity. Children have returned to school with boxes of tissues, new binders and freshly sharpened pencils.

Asthma Peaks in SeptemberOne in 10 children in our schools will also bring their asthma back to school. Asthma is a huge issue in America’s schools and is the number one reason for school absences – it is responsible for more than 13.8 million missed school days. And there is a proven phenomenon that occurs every year – the September Asthma Peak.

The third week of September has been identified as the peak time for asthma flares among children and youth. Hospitalizations and visits to the emergency room due to asthma tend to spike during this time.

So what’s so special about September and asthma?

In summer, most families are more relaxed about their Asthma Action Plans and asthma controller medications, but when school restarts, there is renewed stress around family schedules and expectations for the new school year - not to mention the pressure of academics, sports and social aspects of school that can include bullying. The student enters a new classroom (or classrooms) with different children in a relatively small space, increasing the risk for infections.

Our environment changes with the fall season. Outside, the weather gets chillier and ragweed and mold pollens return. Inside, we’re in closer quarters with others and we tend to keep the windows and doors closed as the weather gets cooler and cooler.

It’s important for the school’s healthcare team – led by the school nurse – to come together to promote asthma management all year long, but especially in September. With the student at the center of care, the parents and family, the medical home and the school team can be strategic in minimizing asthma flares. First and foremost, talk with your student to see how they are feeling and if they know how to access their asthma medications as needed during the school day and after-school activities.

Back to SchoolEvery student with asthma should have an Asthma Action Plan, which should be updated annually. This plan directs the care of a student with respiratory issues and provides guidance from the medical provider. Another vitally important point is to stress the importance of hand washing. Good hand hygiene is key to stopping the spread of germs and illnesses at school.

As students settle into a new school routine, encourage healthy habits to get the school year off to a great start!

Shop Allergy and Asthma products on! You'll find essential products to help keep your students healthy this year.

Fighting Germs in Schools Helps Stop the Spread of Illness and Reduce Absenteeism

Good hand hygiene helps keep germs at bay and is a critical part of preventing colds, the flu, and infections from spreading. Most of the country has just come through one of the worst flu seasons in recent history. Schools were hit especially hard and many schools faced days-long closures as they tried to stop the flu from spreading or find enough healthy staff for classrooms.

While handwashing with soap and water remains the gold standard for hand hygiene, it’s not always realistic as students move between classrooms, buildings, busses, and navigate the demands of a busy school day. And, when a student is sent to the restroom to wash their hands, how do we know that they’re washing with soap and water for the prescribed length of time – or if they’re washing at all?

Sanitizers to the rescue! School Health recommends an all-inclusive approach to fighting the spread of germs in your school. A complete solution includes using alcohol-based hand sanitizers and surface disinfectants that are scientifically formulated for no trade-off protection, in addition to handwashing, as an important part of cleanliness and well-being.

PURELL® products are universally recognized and trusted to provide fast and effective protection from germs.1In one study, schools that combined hand-hygiene education with PURELL products reduced teacher absenteeism by 10 percent.2Student absenteeism was reduced by 51 percent when PURELL hand hygiene products were used in conjunction with a curriculum to teach kids about good hand hygiene.3

Placing the right products in key locations helps teachers and staff remind students to practice good hand hygiene during the day, which helps stop germs and illness from spreading. Hand hygiene is the single most important way to prevent the spread of infection, but it’s just half of the solution. You can significantly improve results when you also prevent recontamination by disinfecting the surfaces people touch.

School Health recommends using a combination of hand sanitizers, surface disinfectants, and wipes. Placing these products in easily accessible, high traffic areas will help to combat germy conditions and keep kids healthy. Some placement suggestions include:

  • The entrance to the school

  • The entrance to the gym and locker rooms

  • Outside of the restroom

  • Near the water fountain

  • Outside of classrooms, offices, and the teacher’s lounge

  • In food preparation areas and cafeterias

To learn more about solutions for a clean and healthy classroom, Request a Consultation with one of our experts. You can even learn how to get FREE dispensers with your purchase!

School Health Services Give Children a Bright Future

Shared with permission from the Healthy Schools Campaign.

Mary Ellen Barkman, the Medicaid Coordinator for Pinellas County Schools, the eighth largest school district in Florida, is passionate about their vision screening program. “We’re saving children’s lives,” she says.

Spot Vision ScreenerFor instance, last year, there was a new student in the district, a recent immigrant from Egypt who spoke only Arabic. Her teacher struggled to reach her and felt that beyond the language issue, the girl must have some cognitive problems. As part of her special education evaluation, she was tested with one of the district’s new Spot Vision Screeners. This quick screen showed that she had a serious muscle problem that caused triple vision. After she received the specialized prism glasses she needed and hearing aids for her hearing loss, she was at grade level within a year. “Without those screenings she may not have been able to reach her fullest potential,” Barkman says. “With help, children can have such a bright future.”

The district’s investment in spot screeners is the result of careful analysis of the district’s needs. Several years ago, school health services managers reported to Barkman that there was an issue with the district’s protocol for vision screenings. They were inefficient and time consuming, and they simply didn’t work for students who couldn’t talk or who had trouble sitting still or following instructions—often the very students who needed accurate screenings the most. The district researched many options and settled on Spot Vision Screeners, which work by taking a picture of the child’s eye and using it to screen for visual acuity, muscle imbalance and tumors. In fact, in the first year of using the screeners, the district identified a serious tumor in a student that had been missed by his primary care doctor. The machine creates a printout for parents that explains any follow-up services their child needs, and the district has formed partnerships with a vision van, local optometrists and the Lion’s Club to provide services for children who need follow-up services after screenings. And because the screeners are so easy to use, the district’s vision teams can make much more efficient use of their nurses to follow up with students who fail the screenings, rather than having to do the screenings themselves.

Barkman and the Pinellas County Schools team have woven together many different funding streams to build this unique program including Medicaid funding for the actual Spot Vision Screeners. Most of the funding comes from effective maximization of Medicaid billable services, such as Physical and Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, Nursing, Social Work, Psychology and Transportation and Administrative Claiming. Half of the reimbursement dollars are given to her program to spend on priorities they identify. The other half goes to operating to offset salary costs of billing providers. Because of this, Barkman works hard with her practitioners to make sure they are billing for all eligible services and maximizing Administrative Claiming reimbursement. They even developed their own electronic documentation system to make this easier. Over five years, the district has increased Medicaid revenue by $1.7 million to increase resources for students.

What’s next for Pinellas County? One priority is developing a micro-credentialing system for the one-on-one assistants who work with children with multiple challenges, to give them skills for physically transferring the children, feeding, seizure monitoring, CPR and social supports. Medicaid will support an increase in their salary after achieving the credential, which will allow them to be Medicaid-claimable health assistants. This invests Medicaid dollars directly into something that meets the needs of some of the district’s most vulnerable students.

“The key is out of the box thinking,” Barkman says, “and the box has gotten smaller.” She continues to look for ways to leverage whatever funding is available. “It’s such a blessing to be able to help a child reach their fullest potential. It’s important that people understand how important the Medicaid dollars are to that,” Barkman says.

Rochester News Station Interviews Gates Chili CSD & Mobilize Rescue Systems about Life-Saving Technology

Fox Rochester's Ashley Doerzbacher interviewed Superintendent Kim Ward and the Mobilize Rescue team about the #Mobilize1Million campaign and the use of the Mobilize Rescue System at the Gates Chili Central School District.

You can watch the interviews here (Be sure to scroll down to watch all five segments.)

Mob1mil_2Mobilize Rescue Systems offer the only interactive trauma and first aid system capable of helping untrained bystanders assess, manage, and monitor a spectrum of medical emergencies.

Each Mobilize product includes access to the Mobilize Rescue app, which provides users with just-in-time instructions to assess and manage life-threatening emergencies. Bystanders can follow simple steps in the Mobilize Rescue app, and have the knowledge and ability to provide care anywhere they go.

The interactive app is designed by experienced medical providers to place the highest accepted standards of emergency medical care in the hands of the everyday person. The app takes the guess work out of providing care - the untrained rescuer can determine the problem, locate the proper equipment and be taught to use it properly with interactive, just-in-time training.

Here are some notable quotes from the interview. These quotes highlight the benefits provided by Mobilize Rescue Systems during an emergency situation.

"I just feel like we're more equipped to handle any situation. It's a different world out there, and we need to be prepared. It's not something we like to think about, we hope we never have to use it, but helping our staff, even students, anyone who walks in the building knows what (the Mobilize Rescue Systems) are, knows where they're found next to our AEDs. They at least know they are equipped to respond and help save lives. We talk about innocent bystanders, these units allow you to be active in trying to save lives, in trying to stabilize victims until the emergency staff can arrive." - Superintendent Kim Ward, Gates Chili Central School District

"The technology for first aid has just changed so dramatically, with AEDs and everything else, and (the Mobilize Rescue System) is an addition to that." - Doug Emblidge, FOX Rochester

"It's so hard to predict how you will react in times of crisis, or during an emergency. That's why this is so important." - Jennifer Johnson, FOX Rochester

"It's also good to know, when we send our kids off to school, you trust that they're in good hands and you feel a little bit more confident that they've got (the Mobilize Rescue) technology there." - Alexis Arnold, FOX Rochester

"Safety comes first... I think it's important for people to feel a comfort, and to have hope that they can help until emergency responders can arrive on the scene." - Superintendent Kim Ward, Gates Chili Central School District

Learn more about the #Mobilize1Million campaign, and how you can sponsor and empower your school, workplace, community, or family to save lives.

CPR Week: Learn Two Simple Steps to Save a Life

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CPR and AED Awareness Week is Every June 1-7

Statistically speaking, did you know that if you are called on to give CPR in an emergency, you will most likely be trying to save the life of someone you love? This could be a parent, child, friend, or a student.

June 1-7 is National CPR and AED Awareness Week. In 2007, the American Heart Association worked collaboratively with the American Red Cross and the National Safety Council to federally designate a National CPR and AED Awareness Week. On December 13, 2007, Congress unanimously passed a resolution to set aside this week each year to spotlight how lives can be saved if more Americans know CPR and how to use an AED. In the declaration, Congress asked states and municipalities to make AEDs more publicly accessible. Schools around the country emphasize the importance of CPR and AED use during this week each year with CPR/AED classes and live events/demonstrations that are conducted.

The AHA invites you to celebrate National CPR and AED Awareness Week in your school. To help get you started, we have created FREE materials that you can print on your school’s printer. Simply visit to access these materials which can be used by themselves or in conjunction with an existing CPR course, like the CPR in Schools Training Kit.

Join the AHA and its Mission to Increase Survival from Cardiac Arrest

We are asking all educators to please take a few minutes out of your day to learn a potentially lifesaving skill. In just 90 seconds, you can learn the two simple steps to Hands-Only CPR by watching this video and sharing the link with your students and co-workers.

Thank you for learning how to save a life!

School Nurse from New Orleans Wins $10,000 to Upgrade Her Health Room

Angela_Damico_social_revised2Nurse Angie from Dwight D. Eisenhower Academy is Selected as the 2015 Ultimate Upgrade: Health Room Edition Contest Winner

Her students know Angela Damico fondly as “Nurse Angie.” Every day Nurse Angie cheerfully shows up to her New Orleans office to face another day of bumps, bruises, coughs, splinters, stomachaches, and bee stings. And that’s on a quiet day. Nurse Angie regularly administers prescription medications, and handles the more serious medical issues that come up in her population of nearly 800 young students.

But Nurse Angie works in a small room that also serves as the office for 3 other teachers. The furniture in her office is old and worn, and some of it broken. During examinations, a wiggly fabric screen provides privacy as students come and go from the crowded room.

Yet Nurse Angie works tirelessly without complaining about her equipment or conditions. It is because of this that School Health is pleased to be able to award the Ultimate Health Room Upgrade grand prize to Angela Damico at Dwight D. Eisenhower Academy in New Orleans!

We will work closely with Nurse Angie to provide her a more functional health room that serves her and her students. And, we will keep you updated on the progress along the way.

Here is an excerpt from the entry for Nurse Angie, submitted on her behalf by a colleague:

"Each morning Nurse Angie walks with her cooler to the cafeteria to carry ice back to her office, where she hands out ice packs for bumped heads and “magic” peppermints to settle upset stomachs. She has a continuous stream of customers with complaints ranging from coughs to splinters to bee stings. She administers ADHD, asthma, allergy and other every day prescription medications, and often can be heard calling parents and doctors to remind them to keep things up to date. She handles the many serious medical issues that crop up with our student population of nearly 800…juvenile diabetes, Sickle Cell Anemia, HIV, seizure disorders, psychiatric disorders. She races out of here when necessary to treat fight victims, evaluate sprains and falls and stabilize broken bones on the playground. In between all of these medical emergencies Nurse Angie calls parents to give them a “heads up” on what accident or illness has occurred at school today, or to tell them what to look out for if there has been a head injury.

She conducts hearing, vision and height/weight screenings, scoliosis screenings, brings in doctors and dentists to provide physicals or examinations for our high poverty student population. She prepares first aid kits for field trips and sporting events. She keeps track of immunizations and sports physicals, and each year must organize and file the most enormous mound of paperwork I have ever seen. She educates parents about the children’s medical conditions. She feeds hungry students and counsels those with eating disorders. She hosts children at lunchtime who are allergic to fish and sends out reminder emails to the staff about those allergies.

Nurse Angie does all of this cheerfully, never complaining about the shortage of outlets as she unplugs and re-plugs all of her necessary equipment into the overloaded extension cords. She has no privacy to give injections or examinations. She soothes the children with a pleasant “Oh, my Angel” so that they never complain about the large dents in the collapsing leather beds. Sometimes as I glance into her side of the room I am reminded of that scene in “Gone With the Wind” where all the soldiers are lined up laying on the ground…sometimes there are so many kids in the beds, chairs and in line to see her that I wonder how she keeps her patience.

Dwight D. Eisenhower Academy is located in the Algiers neighborhood of New Orleans, LA. It was originally built in 1970 and operated as a public elementary school run by the Orleans Parish School Board. In August 2005 Hurricane Katrina devastated the city of New Orleans, damaging or destroying nearly all the 128 school buildings. The Eisenhower school building was wind-damaged, but not flooded, and closed for a time following Hurricane Katrina. It reopened as an open enrollment public charter school, and since that time the enrollment has doubled, tripled, and quadrupled. Conditions here at the school are extremely overcrowded and there is no money for building maintenance. The building has never been remodeled.

Nurse Angie needs privacy screens, lockable storage cabinets, file cabinets and a desk that lock, a hot water heater, an ice machine, more outlets, and new exam beds at the very least. Nurse Angie needs to know that someone cares about her as she is so busy caring for others."

Stay tuned for the “after” picture and update from Nurse Angie’s Ultimate Upgrade!