Ever wish you knew how many students at your child’s school had the flu or strep throat? Now, you can find out.

Alice Mannette
D'ana Heinlein, the school nurse at Nickerson and South Hutchinson elementary schools, is holding the Kinsa thermometer, which is part of a wellness program that gives the thermometer to families free of charge and tracks illnesses at schools.

Finding out how many children in your son or daughter’s grade has a fever or a runny nose is now possible. Nearly 100 Kansas schools are using technology to help parents and teachers stop the spread of illness and help children stay well.

Lysol is funding a project by Kinsa called FLUency. For free, schools can sign up to receive free, state-of-the-art thermometers that not only record temperatures but link into a program that helps with troubleshooting diagnoses and sends the data – anonymously – to the school nurse.

Once the nurse receives the data, it is placed on the dashboard by grade and sent out to participating parents – without mention of anyone’s name. Parents then find out if there are other children with strep throat in their student’s third-grade class. Then, if their child complains of a sore throat, it might be best to take their little one to a doctor.

Joanna Rhoads, the school nurse at Lakeside Elementary School in Pittsburg, started the program last year.

“It went really well. We had 40 to 50 percent participation,” she said. “It really came in handy when we had the flu come through our community.”

The dashboard shows the number of symptoms, like coughs, fevers or runny noses and the diagnosis from the doctor. Examples of a diagnosis includes influenza, common cold, strep throat, COVID-19 and pink eye. These early insights help nurses act with real-time data to halt an outbreak before it happens.

The school nurse at Nickerson and South Hutchinson elementary schools, D’ana Heinlein has used the thermometer since 2016.

“It’s a great program,” she said. “But we haven’t had a huge percentage of families that have taken advantage of it. I wish more would take advantage.”

These thermometers are given free to each family who signs up, and the school is given canisters of Lysol. Staff at the school can also participate and are presented with free thermometers, as well.

The FLUency program is in its sixth year and is in just under 4,000 schools in North America. Schools in Council Grove, Greensburg, Hesston, Pratt, Rose Hill, Stafford and St. John are also participating.

“Forty percent of participating families did not have a thermometer,” said Jane Putnam, a spokeswoman for the program. “There has been a 27% decrease in illness-based absences because of the program.”

Ann Brown, the school nurse at David Brewer Elementary School in Leavenworth, just started the program this year.

“I thought it would be a good program for our school,” she said. “I thought this year would be a good time to do it.”

A Kinsa thermometer, which is given to  participating families who are involved in the school wellness program - FLUency.