Doctors: Students Shouldn't Socialize on Sick Days

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Knoxville (WVLT) - Keeping kids home and cleaning up the schools should go a long way in keeping folks healthy.

Medical Reporter Jessa Goddard has more on how even healthy children should be spending their days off from school.

When school is canceled because of inclement weather, what do your kids do? Many call friends over or head to the mall.

But these "sick days" should be treated quite differently than "snow days". Your child's health depends on it.

Canceling school due to illness gives sick students the chance to get better, and prevents healthy ones from being exposed their contagious classmates.

"The reason to cancel school is to decrease the spread and contamination, so it's a good idea to try to prevent other people from getting it," says Dr. Jeffrey Abrams, from the Children's Hospital E.R.

But it defeats the purpose if you allow your children, even if they're perfectly healthy, to socialize with friends.

A person can be contagious for one to three days with flu, before they present with symptoms.

So, their friends who may look and feel fine now, could be exposing them to the very illness school superintendents are trying to prevent.

"The reason schools are canceled are to try to decrease other people getting sick. So, if you're not in school and 10 kids get together for a slumber party or go to the mall together -- they can all get sick," says Dr. Abrams.

In Knox County, though, absenteeism rates are average, even below average, compared to years' past.

"They are not seeing a lot of absenteeism in Knox County at all, for anything, yet. And we hope that continues," says Knox County Public Health Officer Dr. Martha Buchanan.

Then again, Knox County has the highest projected FluMist vaccination rate in the nation.

The health department vaccinated approximately 60 percent of medically eligible school-age children.

"I'd love to be able to claim victory right now and say for sure, boy, that's why Knox County Schools are still is session, but the data's not in. I think it could be related to FluMist, and that's certainly what we're hoping to show," says Dr. Buchanan.

The vaccination program could also affect your chance of getting flu, with children being the primary transmitters in any community.

To determine whether the FluMist vaccination program was, in fact, a success.

Researchers at Vanderbilt University will compare the absentee rates of Knox County students, who were vaccinated, and Davidson County students, who were not.

They'll compile the data at the end of flu season for a report to be released this summer or fall.