With winter quickly approaching, the weather is turning colder, the shoppers are getting prepared for the holidays-and the flu is beginning to spread. As a teacher, it's important to be adequately prepared to keep seasonal influenza from spreading throughout schools, so that you and your students can make it through the season without sickness.
"This year there are three strains of flu that we expect to be circulating the country: the A strain, also known as H3N2; the B Strain; and last year's pandemic, the H1N1 strain," explains Jeff Dimond of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All of these strains are hazardous to your health, but Dimond says that now more than ever children and younger adults are especially susceptible, referring to last year's H1N1 flu pandemic, which paralyzed schools around the country.
Warding off germs in the classroom
According to Dimond, "Children are some of the most efficient germ carriers, and they can pick up various bugs at school, on the playground, in the bathroom, and simply just by playing and being in contact with infected objects." Thus, it's especially important during this season that children are taught healthy habits. At school, remind your students to do the following:
- Cover their coughs or sneezes with their sleeves, rather than coughing directly into their hands
- Wash their hands (using warm water and soap) for at least 20 seconds before meals and during bathroom breaks.
- Use hand sanitizer regularly and when access to water and soap is not available.
You can encourage them to follow these healthy habits by being a good role model-cover your coughs and sneezes with your sleeves and practice good hand hygiene.
You also can make strides to disinfect your room by routinely cleaning desks, keyboards, doorknobs, water fountains and other areas that students frequently touch. Antibacterial wipes are great to keep on hand for a quick wipe-down of all of the common classroom surfaces.
Some experts also suggest keeping students as far away from each other as possible. This could mean avoiding small group work and other group activities when the flu is running rampant and spacing out desks a little more in the winter months.
Handling illness in the classroom
Being prepared is the best way to combat the spread of flu and other seasonal germs. In addition to being armed with cleaning supplies and hand sanitizers, it's also important to know what to do if you suspect a child is contagious. First, the CDC recommends looking for these symptoms:
- Fever (although not everyone with flu has a fever)
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Body aches
- Sometimes diarrhea and vomiting
If a student complains or shows signs of these symptoms, the best course of action is to send the student to school health office for further evaluation. According to the CDC, sick people should stay at home until at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever or signs of a fever (without the use of fever-reducing medicine).
What happens when the teacher gets sick
When it comes to the flu, the same rule applies for teachers, so stay home if you suffer from the above flu symptoms. And if you haven't already done so this year, get a flu shot, which is recommended for everyone over the age of 6 months.