Nurse's Notes

nnifer Thermenos

School Nurse

International School of Dakar

Humidity, hot weather, and little creatures...

posted Aug 30, 2017, 2:24 AM by Jennifer THERMENOS   [ updated Aug 30, 2017, 9:18 AM by Catherine KAZMIRSKI ]

The hot and humid weather of August and September make for great beach days along Senegal's Petite Cote.  One can head to Toubab-Dialao, Saly-Portudal, or enjoy the beaches right here in Dakar, such as Plage du Virage - Ngor or the endless Plage du Yoff.

However, we must keep in mind that we live in sub - Saharan Africa, a region of the world that is home to many interesting little creatures.  And as we know, knowledge is power.  So the more you know about these little creatures the less opportunity they will have to hassle you and your family.

What creatures might be making an appearance right now?

The mango fly is endemic to the sub - tropics of Africa, and in it's larval stage, as a worm, it has a habit of burrowing under the skin of large mammals.  The mango fly will drop it's eggs into moist soil or sand, or moist clothing or bed linens (like those on a clothing line).  The eggs hatch into the "mango worm", and the worm may burrow into the skin of humans or dogs.  What to look for:  small boil - like sores or ulcers on the skin that may itch or become painful.  In the beginning it may be mistaken for a mosquito bite. How to treat it: the mango worm rarely causes severe complications.  To remove it apply petroleum jelly, Vicks vaporub, or Valda pommade to the sore to bring the worm to the surface and remove the whole worm with tweezers, pinching the skin may help.  Wash the area thoroughly with soap and water and apply antibiotic ointment.  How to prevent it:  iron all clothing and linens that are hung outside to dry (kills the eggs), and avoid skin contact with moist or potentially contaminated soil or sand (for example right after a rainfall or sand on the beach where there may be a lot of dogs running around).

The hookworm is common in sub - tropical regions of Africa.  Hookworm eggs hatch into larvae, and again can turn up in moist sand and soil. The hookworm larvae, like the mango worm, like to burrow into the skin.  Generally speaking, the hookworms that we may come across in Dakar are feline and canine hookworms, which rarely develop into adulthood in humans.  What to look for: red eruptions on the skin, often in lines, that are extremely itchy.  The eruptions often occur on feet and hands.  How to treat it: taking a pill, such as albendazole or mebendazole, for 1 to 3 days, should clear the infection.  Also taking an antihistamine such as Benadryl can help relieve the itching.  Wash the area thoroughly with soap and water and apply antibiotic ointment.  How to prevent it: wear shoes and avoid skin contact with moist or potentially contaminated soil or sand (for example right after a rainfall or sandy areas and fields with dirt and soil, where there may be cats and dogs running around).

At ISD, we are aware that precautions are necessary when kids are out on our fields and playgrounds.  Students must wear shoes when outside the classrooms.  The sand playgrounds are closed after it rains, and are only opened up again after the sand has sufficiently dried.

These safety measures can be enforced during school hours, and because knowledge is power, we encourage our families to take the same precautions when enjoying our facilities during the weekend, or when out and about at the beach.

The more you know...

Cheers to your Health,

Nurse Jen 

CPR AED Awareness Week is June 1 - 7th!

posted Jun 2, 2017, 4:52 AM by Jennifer THERMENOS   [ updated Jun 2, 2017, 5:02 AM ]

What is CPR?  Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a lifesaving technique useful in many emergencies, including heart attack or near drowning, in which someone's breathing or heartbeat has stopped. The American Heart Association recommends that everyone — untrained bystanders and medical personnel alike — begin CPR with chest compressions.  It's far better to do something than to do nothing at all if you're fearful that your knowledge or abilities aren't 100 percent complete. Remember, the difference between your doing something and doing nothing could be someone's life.

Here's advice from the American Heart Association:

  • Untrained. If you're not trained in CPR, then provide hands-only CPR (*to teens and adults). That means uninterrupted chest compressions of 100 to 120 a minute until paramedics arrive. You don't need to try rescue breathing.
  • Trained and ready to go. If you're well-trained and confident in your ability, begin with chest compressions instead of first checking the airway and doing rescue breathing. Start CPR with 30 chest compressions before checking the airway and giving rescue breaths.
  • Trained but rusty. If you've previously received CPR training but you're not confident in your abilities, then just do chest compressions at a rate of 100 to 120 a minute.

The above advice applies to adults, children and infants needing CPR, but not newborns.

What is an AED?  An automated external defibrillator (AED) is a portable device that checks the heart rhythm and can send an electric shock to the heart to try to restore a normal rhythm. AEDs are used to treat sudden cardiac arrest (SCA).

At ISD, several of our staff members are trained in CPR and the use of our AED.  Right on!

Do you want to learn more about CPR and Hands-Only CPR?  Visit: 

Other resources:

Cheers to Your Health,

Nurse Jen

Vaccine Update:  Pharmacie Guigon in Plateau and Pharmacie Arc En Ciel in Les Almadies are now confirmed to have the full coverage quadrivalent meningococcal vaccine Menactra to protect against meningitis.  Institut Pasteur does not have the meningitis vaccine to date.  And remember, summer break is a great time to review and make sure you and your family's routine and travel vaccinations are up to date!  


How a School Nurse contributes to a School

posted May 19, 2017, 8:08 AM by Jennifer THERMENOS

Take a look here to see how a school nurse contributes to a school:

Vaccine update 5/19/17:  Dakar awaits the full coverage quadrivalent meningococcal vaccine to protect against meningitis (look for the name Menomune or Menactra).  Some locations in Dakar (Pharmacie Guigon, Pharmacie Republique, Pharmacie Arc En Ciel) have a partial coverage vaccine (look for the name Meningo A / C).  For those that are seeking the meningococcal vaccine, I suggest you discuss with your healthcare provider what is best for you and your family:  to take what is available now, to wait for the full coverage vaccine to arrive in Dakar, or to wait until you travel, if you travel elsewhere, in the summer.  Institut Pasteur does not have the vaccine at this time.

Cheers to your Health,

Nurse Jen

How does a School Nurse benefit our School?

posted May 12, 2017, 8:09 AM by Jennifer THERMENOS   [ updated May 12, 2017, 8:10 AM ]

Today is International Nurses Day, an international day celebrated around the world on 12 May (the anniversary of Florence Nightingale's birth) of each year, to mark the contributions nurses make to society.  I thought it would be interesting to take a look at how a school nurse contributes to a school.  Follow this link to find out:

Now for a vaccine update:  Dakar awaits the full coverage quadrivalent meningococcal vaccine to protect against meningitis (look for the name Menomune or Menactra).  Some locations in Dakar (Pharmacie Guigon and Pharmacie Arc En Ciel) now have a partial coverage vaccine (look for the name Meningo).  For those that are seeking the meningococcal vaccine, I suggest you discuss with your healthcare provider what is best for you and your family:  to take what is available now, to wait for the full coverage vaccine to arrive in Dakar, or to wait until you travel, if you travel elsewhere, in the summer.  Institut Pasteur does not have the vaccine at this time.

Cheers to your Health,

Nurse Jen

World Immunization Week

posted May 5, 2017, 5:41 AM by Jennifer THERMENOS   [ updated May 12, 2017, 6:36 AM ]

- Immunization prevents between 2 & 3 million deaths every year. Yet 1 in 7 kids are missing out. World Immunization Week

A meningococcal vaccine update will be coming from me next week.

Cheers to your Health, 

Nurse Jen


posted Apr 20, 2017, 7:07 AM by Jennifer THERMENOS   [ updated Apr 28, 2017, 5:05 AM ]

Parents, I ask that you review this message from last week.  My latest communication with Institut Pasteur is that they are expecting to have the meningococcal vaccine in the beginning of May:

Please receive this important message and make sure you and your family's vaccinations, both routine and country-specific, are up-to-date.  Remember, it is always better to prevent a disease than to treat it after it occurs.

Many illnesses that are common, or endemic, in Senegal can be prevented by vaccinations.  One such illness is meningococcal meningitis.  Senegal is one of almost 20 countries in the "meningitis belt" of sub-Saharan Africa.  The prevalent season for meningitis in Senegal is during the dry season, in the months of December through June.  We have confirmed with the US Embassy Health Unit in Dakar that there is currently an increase of cases of meningitis in some countries within the meningitis belt region.  Senegal is not seeing an increase in meningitis cases at this time, but because Senegal is within this region, it is very important to be sure you and your family's meningitis vaccinations are up-to-date.  Here is what you need to know:

  • Make sure you are vaccinated 
  • Vaccines are available at Institut Pasteur de Dakar
  • Senegal is not currently seeing an increase in meningococcal meningitis cases
  • All sub-Saharan countries are at increased risk for meningitis
Below I have included links to the vaccine schedule for Institut Pasteur, more information about meningitis, and vaccination recommendations for Senegal.  The meningitis vaccine is administered at the Institut Pasteur Monday through Saturday, just check the schedule for times.  Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have questions.

Cheers to you and your family's health,

Nurse Jen

*****UPDATE 4/21/17 at 1730:  If you are seeking the vaccine please call the facility before you go to ensure availability.  I was just informed by Institut Pasteur that the vaccine is unavailable right now as they await a delivery from Europe.  If you are seeking the vaccine I would advise to call Institut Pasteur or your particular pharmacy ahead of time and inquire about availability.***** 


posted Mar 23, 2017, 5:09 AM by Marieme ‎(RCPT)‎ MBAYE   [ updated Mar 24, 2017, 8:47 AM by ISD Communications ]

Dear Parents/Guardians:

A routine vision and hearing screening will be done at school beginning the week of March 27th, 2017. ISD will screen grades KG, 1, 3, 5, 7. If you’re child is not in these grades and you wish to have a screening done, please contact me.

If you do not want your child to be screened for any reason, please let the school know by notifying your child’s teacher or myself.

After the tests, you will receive a note from me only if it is recommended that your child receive further evaluation by a specialist.

Feel free to contact me should you have questions or concerns.

Thank you!

Jennifer Thermenos, RN, BSN
School Nurse
International School of Dakar
Tel: 33 825 0871 / 33 860 2332 x112
Mobile: 77 869 7250 

Your Eyes: Myth and Fact

posted Mar 17, 2017, 2:38 AM by Jennifer THERMENOS   [ updated Mar 17, 2017, 2:39 AM ]

In honor of the annual ISD vision and hearing screenings for select grade levels, here are some interesting facts about our EYES.  Did you know?

Myth: Sitting too close to the TV is bad for the eyes.  Fact: Although parents have been saying this ever since TVs first found their way into our homes, there's no evidence that plunking down right in front of the TV set damages someone's eyes (sorry!!). The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) says that kids can actually focus up close without eyestrain better than adults, so they often develop the habit of sitting right in front of the television or holding reading material close to their eyes. However, sitting close to a TV may be a sign of nearsightedness.

Myth: If you cross your eyes, they'll stay that way.  Fact: Contrary to the old saying, eyes will not stay that way if you cross them. If your child is crossing one eye constantly, schedule an evaluation by an ophthalmologist.

Myth: If parents have poor eyesight, their kids will inherit that trait.  Fact: Unfortunately, this one is sometimes true. If you need glasses for good vision or have developed an eye condition (such as cataracts), your kids might inherit that same trait. Discuss your family's visual history with your doctor.

Myth: Eating carrots can improve vision.  Fact: Although it's true that carrots are rich in vitamin A, which is essential for sight, so are many other foods (asparagus, apricots, nectarines, and milk, for example). A well-balanced diet can provide the vitamin A needed for good vision, says the AAO.

Myth: Computer use can damage the eyes.  Fact: According to the AAO, computer use won't harm the eyes. However, when using a computer for long periods of time, the eyes blink less than normal (like they do when reading or performing other close work). This makes the eyes dry, which may lead to a feeling of eyestrain or fatigue. So encourage your kids to take frequent breaks from Internet surfing or video games.  

Myth: Two blue-eyed parents can't produce a child with brown eyes.  Fact: Two blue-eyed parents can have a child with brown eyes, although it's very rare. Likewise, two brown-eyed parents can have a child with blue eyes, although this is also uncommon.

Myth: Only boys can be color-blind.  Fact: It's estimated that up to 8% of boys have some degree of color blindness, whereas less than 1% of girls do.

Myth: The eye is full size at birth.  Fact: The eye is NOT full size at birth but continues to grow with your child. This growth partially accounts for refractive (glasses) changes that occur during childhood.

Myth: Wearing glasses too much will make the eyes "dependent" on them.  Fact: Refractive errors (near-sightedness, far-sightedness, or astigmatism) change as kids get older. Many variables come into play, but most of this change is likely due to genetics and continues despite wearing glasses earlier or later or more or less. Wearing glasses does not make the eyes get worse.

eye diagram

Cheers to your Health,

Nurse Jen

St. Valentine and Heart Health - Just for Fun

posted Feb 17, 2017, 8:34 AM by Jennifer THERMENOS   [ updated Feb 17, 2017, 9:59 AM by Suzanne, WARDINI ]

In honor of St. Valentine's Day, here are some HEART-healthy recipes for kids and adults!

What makes a recipe heart healthy? Look for ingredients that are good for your heart: like the olive oil, nuts, and even chocolate in these recipes. Heart-healthy foods also are low in saturated fat and salt. So get cooking and then get eating!  Click on the links below to open the recipes, and enjoy.

Oatmeal doesn't have to be served in a bowl. Make your own whole-grain Blueberry Oatmeal Squares, studded with good-for-you blueberries.  You can substitute with other berries or raisins if you don't have blueberries!

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Salad will fill your plate with color and flavor. Season it hot or mild, depending on how you like it.

Fish contains healthy, unsaturated fats, but Olive-Crusted Salmon packs a double punch when it comes to nutrition. The olives are heart-healthy, too.

This easy soup starts out with canned chicken stock and finishes rich in vegetables and taste.  Mediterranean Pasta Soup is a bowl full of yum!

For dessert, Chocolate Sweetheart Parfaits. This creamy treat mixes yogurt, cocoa, and berries, then adds just a few chocolate shavings on top.

For more information on heart health, visit: KIDS HEALTH  

Cheers to Your Health,

Nurse Jen

A Note on Mindfulness

posted Jan 27, 2017, 5:59 AM by Jennifer THERMENOS

In keeping with the mindfulness training that our students participated in last week, I wanted to offer some simple meditation techniques for students here...  Tip: they work for parents too!

Meditation is a way to get quiet, calm, and focused. It trains your mind to slow down, relax, and stay positive. Meditating for just a few minutes a day can help you feel centered, balanced, and more in control — even during the times when you're not actually meditating.

Making meditation one of your daily routines (like brushing your teeth) can help you feel more grounded when it seems like you're being pulled in a million directions.

Here are some meditation exercises to try:

Focus on the Breath

Try this as soon as you get home from school:

  • Close your door, set a timer for 3-5 minutes, and find a comfortable place to sit.
  • Close your eyes and focus on your breathing.
  • As you inhale, think about your lungs inflating, your ribs expanding, and the breath moving through your nasal passages.
  • As you exhale, think about your lungs deflating and the breath rushing out of your nasal passages.
  • If your mind starts to wander, calmly say to yourself "thinking" and then turn your attention back to your breath.

Visualize Success

This is a great thing to do when you feel stressed about something that's coming up like a big test, sports game, or performance:

  • Set a timer for 3-5 minutes. Find a comfortable place to sit.
  • Close your eyes and picture things going well.
  • Visualize yourself feeling prepared and in control as you sit down for your test, or kicking the winning goal in soccer, or landing the lead role at your drama audition.

Visualization doesn't take the place of actual preparation. But it can help you feel confident and manage the negative thinking that sometimes goes with stress.

Paying attention to how you are breathing can help you notice how you're feeling — it can give you a clue that you're stressed even when you don't realize it. So start by noticing how you're breathing, then focus on slowing down and breathing more deeply.

Try practicing these breathing exercises:

Belly Breathing

Belly breathing allows you to focus on filling your lungs fully. It's a great way to counteract shallow, stressed-out breathing:

  • Sit in a comfortable position with one hand on your belly.
  • With your mouth closed and your jaw relaxed, inhale through your nose. As you inhale, allow your belly to expand. Imagine the lower part of your lungs filling up first, then the rest of your lungs inflating.
  • As you slowly exhale, imagine the air emptying from your lungs, and allow the belly to flatten.
  • Do this 3-5 times.

This kind of breathing can help settle your nerves before a big test, sports game, or even before bed.

These breathing and meditation techniques can have subtle but powerful effects. If you keep practicing them, the benefits will build up into real results. This might happen so gradually that you don't notice it. But you'll know that a positive change is at work when you don't lose your cool during a fight with your parents or go into a stress meltdown before a big exam!

For more information visit:

Here's to a peaceful weekend,

Nurse Jen

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