Barrington schools doctor: Kids with the flu need to stay home


The physician in charge of Barrington Public Schools wants people to use their common sense when it comes to avoiding the flu this year.

Dr. Len Parker said there are some basic steps people can follow that will help them steer clear of getting sick with the flu. For starters, good hygiene, such as washing your hands regularly, is important.

He said vaccinations are also crucial, with flu vaccinations recommended for just about everybody — babies 6 months old and on.

He said there are two reasons people offer as to why they don’t receive a flu vaccination: “One is that they never got the flu, and one is that they got the flu shot but still got the flu,” Dr. Parker said.

The longtime local physician said some people who are vaccinated against the flu still contract the illness, but it never reaches the level of severity it would for someone who was not vaccinated.

During an interview earlier this month, Dr. Parker said the number of diagnosed cases of flu among Barrington students had not increased dramatically. As of last week, 25 states across the country — including Rhode Island — had declared the flu to be widespread.

Dr. Parker said there is a possibility the local school district could see a bump in flu cases this month, considering students had just returned from holiday break and if they were infected with the flu they may not show signs for a few days.

If a student does show signs of the flu they should not go to school, Dr. Parker said.

“It’s important that if your child is sick, keep them home. It’s hard with two parents working or single parents, but it’s important,” he said.

Officials said they are seeing the H1N1 strain of the flu, which was first detected in 2009.

“This strain affects children, young adults and middle-aged adults more than other strains,” stated a press release from the R.I. Department of Health. “However, this year’s vaccine protects against H1N1 flu, as well as two or three other strains (depending on what type of vaccine people received).”

Emergency warning signs

According to the Rhode Island Department of Health, people should seek immediate medical attention if they display any of the following signs or symptoms:

For children:

• Fast breathing or trouble breathing

• Bluish color on skin or around mouth and lips

• Dehydration

• Not waking up or interacting

• Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held

• Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough

• Fever with a rash

For adults:

• Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath n Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen

• Sudden dizziness

• Confusion

• Severe or persistent vomiting

For more information about the flu and flu vaccination clinics, contact the Health Information Line at 401-222-5960

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.