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Smart thermometers prevent germ sharing

News Courier - 12/23/2018

Dec. 22--More 32 million children in the United States, roughly two-thirds, missed school in the past 12 months due to illness or injury, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

Missed school days can slow student achievement and lower funding for schools.

The FLUency program, a national health program by Kinsa Co., aims to decrease the number of days students miss school due to illness by making smart thermometers that help parents and school nurses know what illnesses are circulating.

With help from Lysol, schools like FAME Academy at Brookhill Elementary School were able to put a a free smart thermometer in the hands of every parent who requested one. FAME Academy is one of only 17 schools in the state to receive the grant for the smart thermometers, said school nurse Shemeeka Yarbrough.

Yarbrough applied for the grant at the end of the 2017-2018 school year because she thought the thermometers would give parents and teachers an edge during this year's influenza season.

"I don't want our kids to miss school," she said. "I thought it was important that our staff and families get a head start to try to prevent the flu."

The thermometers include an app that can be download onto any smart device. The app allows the user to enter the child's symptoms and receive real-time, personalized guidance on when to call a doctor and how to make the child feel better. Medications can also be tracked on the app for each family member, which helps ensure proper dosing. Finally, the app compiles and anonymously publishes information provided by parents so other parents, teachers and the school nurse can better understand which illnesses are going around.

Although the smart thermometers were free, parents had to sign up for them. Around 40 thermometers were given out this year. Although Yarbrough would have liked more parents to sign up for the thermometers, she believes the new program is making a difference.

"It helps me recognize a lot of illnesses that come into my clinic, and it gives me a better sense of what is going on," Yarbrough said. "It also cuts down on the number of kids who come to school with a fever, who have already exposed other kids on the bus or their classmates, because now their parents have one (a smart thermometer) at home."

Overall, Yarbrough is seeing fewer cases of students with the flu than in previous years. Last year, she saw somewhere between 15 and 20 cases of flu, whereas this year she has only heard of three or four cases.

"I think people are taking more precautions because last flu season was so bad," she said. People are getting their vaccines sooner, they are washing and sanitizing their hands more and hopefully getting enough sleep."

FAME Academy hosted a flu clinic in September where about 10 students from each grade received vaccinations. Yarbrough said many more students received flu vaccinations at pediatrician offices, adding it is not too late to get a flu shot.

Yarbrough plans to apply for the FLUency grant again next year so more parents can take advantage of the free smart thermometers.


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