Surviving Cold and Flu Season in the Classroom

December always brings a flurry of activity: holiday planning and shopping, year-end celebrations, and preparing for colder weather. This season also brings some unpleasant realities, like colds and flu. Flu activity for 2017-2018 is already off to a robust start, which may increase the potential for flu to impact you and your students.

But there are additional, less well-known (and possibly more offbeat) ways to get through the upcoming cold and flu season unscathed:

  • Bring those common-sense tips to life: We all know the basics of staying in good health during cold and flu season- wash your hands frequently, sneeze into your elbow, and stay home if you do get sick to avoid contaminating others. If you haven’t shared these with your class already, this would be a good time to do so. Though depending on their age, this material is nothing new. If you want the students to be more engaged, you can ask them to create posters of these tips to display in the classroom and in the halls. This will generate more interest in an otherwise unexciting topic while providing visual reminders for ongoing reference.
  • Learn more about the flu shot, and what it does and doesn’t do. The flu vaccine isn’t without its controversies. And well-meaning friends have probably shared anecdotes of allegedly getting the flu after getting the shot.  While some people do experience side effects, which occur as a response to the body building its immunity, you can’t get the flu from the shot itself because the virus in the vaccine is dead. The flu shot remains the best way to potentially avoid flu, and it also lessens the severity if you do catch it. This article debunks the most common myths about the flu vaccine, and shares additional information. According the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), everyone over the age of six months should get the vaccine. Even though we’re well into the season, getting one now can help as there are still a few months left where it’ll be a possible danger.
  • Assess your general health. Exercising, eating well, and sleeping enough can be a challenge any time of year! And it might feel nearly impossible now, when you have a longer-than-usual to-do list. The preventative role of good general health and its impact during cold season is often overlooked when the focus is more on hand washing and sneezing etiquette. A recent study from the U.K. found that Vitamin D can help prevent respiratory illnesses, including colds. Just making one small change to your daily routine, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or swapping one daily soda for water, can make a difference, and may motivate you to make additional improvements.
  • Explore natural ways to prevent colds and flu. You should always get a doctor’s approval before adding new vitamins and supplements to your regimen.  

If you do get sick:

  • Be award of what to treat and what to live with. There’s no cure for the common cold, but there are lots of over-the-counter medications that can alleviate symptoms, with varying levels of effectiveness. But think carefully before going that route. According to WebMD, sometimes it’s better to not treat symptoms. A fever is the body’s way of using heat to kill viruses. Coughing clears germ-laden mucus from your lungs. Both help you heal faster.  Doctors at the Mayo Clinic suggest using a humidifier to combat dry air in the home, which may worsen congestion.
  • Know the signs of flu, and how to recognize when it’s severe. For most people, the flu isn’t severe, and a few days’ rest is the only necessary treatment. If you had a flu shot and you get ill anyway, your case is likely to be mild. However, sometimes hospitalization is necessary, especially among children and the elderly. Deaths from flu and flu-related complications vary from year to year, according to the CDC, claiming a low of 12,000 people in 2011-2012 and a peak of 56,000 people during the 2012-2013 season. The CDC also outlines a list of symptoms which require an emergency room visit.

There’s no foolproof way to avoid illness at any time of year. But being proactive can help, by lessening the impact should you contract a cold or the flu, and potentially getting you maintain good health throughout the season.

Tracy Derrell is a Hudson Valley-based freelance writer who specializes in blogging and educational publishing. She taught English in New York City for sixteen years.