New Study Says ‘Keep Kids Home’ To Avoid The Flu. I say ‘No Way.’

A new U.S. government study suggests that keeping kids out of school during flu outbreaks would lessen trips to the ER for flu-related illness. My first reaction to this was, “No kidding.” My second was, “No way.”

Obviously, I care about my children and want them to stay healthy. But how do we put this type of plan in action, with any kind of certainty? The one case they based it on had some pretty interesting results. From NBC news:

The current study looked at two adjacent counties in Texas: Tarrant County, which closed its schools for eight days after a few kids were diagnosed with H1N1; and Dallas County, where schools did not shut down after a few cases were detected.

Before Tarrant County’s school closures, the flu accounted for about 3 percent of all ER visits to area hospitals; during the closures, that rate inched up to just over 4 percent. But the increase was bigger in Dallas County during the same time period: from 3 percent, to just over 6 percent.

The impact was most clear among kids ages 6 to 18. In Tarrant County, there was no increase in the proportion of ER visits blamed on the flu. In Dallas County, the figure more than doubled, from about 5 percent to 11 percent.

That is a pretty striking difference.  But in this case, the closing of the school was pre-emptive. School closures would typically be reactive, and come only after a number of students already fell ill.

As someone who lives in a very crowded city and is constantly inundated with bodies in my personal space – I think the closures are a little ridiculous. If this tactic were to work, we would have to assume all of these kids would be individually quarantined in their homes. I doubt that would happen.

Hurricane Sandy closed most of the schools in New York this week. Do you know what that meant? There were a ton of kids out, everywhere I went. There were crowds of them at Target when I went for provisions after the hurricane. There were hordes in the kid’s section at Barnes and Noble yesterday, crawling over every spare inch of floorspace. Do we really believe that if children are prevented from going to school, they won’t be amongst the general public – and each other?

I’m all for keeping kids healthy, but this would also put an added stress on working parents, who would be forced to negotiate last minute child-care plans. How many working parents do you think have the resources to mobilize that?  I understand the goal, but unless schools could always be pre-emptive – which would be impossible – I really doubt the effectiveness of keeping kids home from school to avoid sickness. I’d much rather stick to the old school way of keeping my sick kid home to avoid contaminating others, as opposed to keeping my healthy one home to avoid being contaminated.

(photo: i4lcocl2/

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