My school year is well underway and so far (knock on wood), I’ve been lucky enough to escape any illnesses this year. I did start to get a sore throat at the beginning of the year, but that always seems to happen when you go from summer break to teaching and talking so loudly for 6+ hours a day.I absolutely adore my 31 first graders this year! They are the cutest bunch of kids and are so sweet and eager to learn every single day. They also like to give me tons of hugs and even share their snacks with me.It’s a sweet gesture when one of them hands me a snack and I’d never want to crush their spirit so I kindly thank them…and dispose of it properly when they walk away. It’s extra important to be on top of your health when you’re a teacher because if you’re sick and have to be out of the classroom, it affects everything. (We all know what can happen when there’s a sub.) I’m very fortunate to be a “seasoned” teacher because a brand new teacher is likely to get sick more often, suffering from up to 2 colds per month. I remember those days!With cold and flu season upon us, I set up an appointment with Kaiser Permanente Orange County Physician Dr. Eric Troyan to chat and get his his best advice for keeping healthy in the classroom. He had some great tips and advice for me, which could be valuable information for anyone who has prolonged contact with children on a daily basis and works in a school or daycare like me. Here are some of the great illness prevention tips we talked about:
Hand Washing and Sanitation
Washing your hands as much as possible is actually the #1 scientifically proven way to stay healthy. In the case of teachers, if a teacher comes in contact with a child and then touches their own face, it’s an instant transfer of germs. Always wash your hands before you touch your face. In my own classroom,I don’t have access to a sink so I keep a big container of alcohol-based hand sanitizer nearby. It’s not a substitute for hand washing ,but does get me by until recess, lunch, or after school, when I can access a real sink.When you do wash your hands, it’s recommended that you use soap and warm water and lather for at least 20 seconds. (I recommend signing the ABCs to know that you’ve lathered for long enough.)Keep Your Immune System Optimized
Your immune system is everything when it comes to illness and preventing and avoiding illness. The stronger your immune system is, the less often you’ll get sick and quicker you’ll recover. Sleep, Nutrition, and Hydration can all affect your immune system.
- Get Ample Sleep – You should try to maintain a regular sleep schedule of at least 10 hours a night. If you get less than 8-10 hours of sleep, your immune system is more likely to take a hit. Studies show a correlation between sleep deprived people and illness.
- Nutrition – Your body depends on proper nutrition to stabilize your immune system. Eating the recommended daily servings of fruit and vegetables is very important. Vitamins in the foods you’re eating are ones that your body uses most efficiently. However, we can’t always eat a balanced diet and get every vitamin we need so supplementing your diet with things like Vitamin C and Vitamin B Complex is a great idea, too.
- Hydration – It’s always important to stay hydrated but doing so can also help you avoid getting sick. Everyone should be drinking about 64 oz. of water on a daily basis but increasing it to about 12 glasses per day (or 96 oz.) is ideal when you’re starting to feel under the weather. Hydration is important overall and helps with many things, not just avoiding illness.
Get a Flu Vaccine
It’s important to actively take care of yourself so you can avoid illnesses, especially when cold and flu season rolls around. One of the things that Dr. Troyan highly recommended was to get a flu shot. He really stressed the importance of this one for people like me who are around children. He also explained that the flu vaccine this year will be more effective than the one last year and told me that it’s considered a “killed version” vaccine as opposed to a live one, which you would hear about people actually getting sick after receiving it. The best time to get a flu vaccine is before Halloween but if you don’t do it by then, you’ll definitely want to get yours before Thanksgiving! Flu season tends to peak after the New Year in California, so why not go into it well prepared to fight it off?Teacher wellness is essential when it comes to a successful school year. Do you or someone close to you work with children? What kinds of things do you do to help fight off illness during the school year?
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