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Broward Schools will use smart thermometers to track student illnesses

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When a student comes home from school feeling a bit under the weather, nothing short of a visit to the doctor can definitively tell a parent if their child has a minor illness or something more serious.

But school officials here hope the use of smart thermometers will alert parents and school nurses to possible outbreaks, giving parents the information they need to make a more informed decision regarding their child’s health.

To do that, Broward County Public Schools is participating in the Lysol + Kinsa FLUency health program, which provides free Kinsa smart thermometers to families.

In contrast to normal thermometers, smart thermometers aggregate and share data from multiple users.

That data can then be shared with nurses, parents and administrators to provide a daily time picture of symptoms from multiple students. And while the smart thermometer can only determine symptoms and not a specific diagnosis, actual professional medical diagnoses of strep throat, the flu or other illnesses [as reported by doctors or nurses], can be part of the data provided.

“A very real example I like to give here is that if you know five kids in [your child’s] 2nd grade [class] have been diagnosed with strep and your 2nd grader comes home complaining of a sore throat, the reaction you have is very different than if you know it’s just a common cold going around,” said Nita Nehru, Kinsa’s director of communications.

“Knowing that strep is highly contagious and very uncomfortable, you would take your child in to the pediatrician as soon as possible [rather than waiting out the cold] – this early detection and early response serves to get your child better faster, and also reduces transmission to other classmates.”

The data provided, she added, only involves the numbers regarding symptoms and specific illnesses. No personal data is shared.

Developed six years ago, the thermometers are in use at 4,000 schools in the U.S. and Canada.

In Broward, 50 schools are participating, including Quiet Waters Elementary, Cypress Elementary, North Andrews Gardens Elementary, Pompano Beach Middle, Atlantic West Elementary and Wilton Manors Elementary.

So far, about 300 thermometers have been shipped to families at the schools. More will be shipped April 5. “The more thermometers, the better the data,” said Nehru.

When parents begin using the thermometers, Dr. Antoine Hickman, chief of student support initiatives and recovery for Broward Schools, said the school system will work with the Florida Department of Health to help analyze the data to try and determine if any outbreaks are occurring.

Parents who want a free thermometer should text “fluency” to 900900. A link to the app will be provided. The thermometer will be shipped directly to each student’s school. They also retail for $25 and can be purchased at Target, CVS and on Amazon.

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