When substitute teaching this time of year, it’s likely you’re filling in for a teacher due to sickness. During the cold winter months, the flu and other illnesses spread like wildfire throughout schools. Substitute teachers are at risk of contracting the flu because their schedule is constantly shifting between classrooms and schools each day. Luckily, we’ve gathered some useful flu season survival tips to help you dodge the flu this season!
1. Wash your hands throughout the day.
One of the most effective flu season survival tips is washing your hands frequently throughout the day. It might be challenging if you’re in a classroom that doesn’t have a sink, but where there’s a will, there’s a way. If you’re in an elementary classroom, take advantage of the moments your students are out of the classroom for specials or lunch. If you’re working an assignment in which your class changes every period, go quickly in-between classes. It will only take a couple of minutes and will tremendously decrease your chances of catching the flu!
2. Bring hand sanitizer with you on assignments.
If you can’t find time to step out of the classroom to wash your hands, hand sanitizer is a plausible alternative. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol is an acceptable substitution to washing your hands. While hand sanitizer is often available in classrooms, it’s prudent to carry your own as a back-up or as an additional source for disinfecting. You can’t have too much of it in a classroom during the flu season!
Check out some more flu-avoiding tips from the CDC.
3. Disinfect commonly touched surfaces.
Door handles, light switches, desks, and faucet handles are some of the most touched surfaces within a classroom, and therefore they contribute to the rapid spreading of the flu. You can help prevent germs from multiplying and protect yourself by wiping down any frequently touched surfaces with disinfecting wipes. This is another useful item you may consider keeping in your substitute bag.
4. Use your own school supplies.
When helping students with classwork, you may be in the habit of picking up their pencils to assist them with a problem without even realizing it. Sometimes you’ll need to borrow supplies to demonstrate an activity to the class. Although it’s nice to have supplies readily available, it might be beneficial to bring in some of your own. Pens, pencils, and other school supplies carry just as many germs as doorknobs or light switches. Using your personal supply of pencils, pens, dry erase markers, scissors, etc., is a great way to reduce exposure to any flu germs lingering in the classroom. Plus, you’ll feel easier knowing you’re not touching things a student may have sneezed or coughed on!
5. Change your clothes when you get home.
Germs stick to just about everything – even your clothes! Think about all the germs that accumulate on your clothing throughout the school day. When you get home, the germs attached to you are ready to invade. The last thing you want to do is bring unwanted bacteria or viruses into your home, putting yourself and your family at risk. Avoid transferring any flu germs into your house by getting changed as soon as you get home (who likes staying in their work clothes all day anyway?). Remove the clothing you’ve been wearing all day and put on something clean and more comfortable. You may even consider taking a quick rinse in the shower to make sure you’re clean from head to toe!
6. Avoid packing finger foods for lunch.
This time of year, you should avoid packing food that requires you to touch it. Whether it’s sandwiches, wraps, chips, pretzels, etc. – if you need to use your hands, there’s a chance you’ll put germs directly into your mouth. Even if you wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before eating, it’s best to avoid hand-to-food contact as much as possible. Instead of packing classic lunch finger foods, try packing a salad, yogurt, soup, chili, or leftover dinner from the night before. Any food that requires you to eat with it with a fork or spoon is a safer alternative. You may be surprised how easy it is to avoid eating lunch with your hands!
7. Boost your immune system.
Your immune system is essential in fighting off any bad bacteria that can cause you to get the flu. It’s important to make sure you have a strong, healthy immune system all year, but especially during flu season. One way to help boost your system is to start taking daily vitamins if advised by your doctor. According to the Cleveland Health Clinic, you should focus on buying vitamins with high levels of vitamin C, B6, and E. There are hundreds of types of vitamins available for you to purchase, depending on your preferences and what your doctor recommends.
You can also boost your immune system by incorporating immune-boosting foods into your diet. Among some popular options are yogurt, citrus fruits, almonds, broccoli, spinach, and kiwi.
8. Drink more water.
Everyone knows how important it is to drink plenty of water during the day to stay hydrated, but did you know that water is a natural immune booster? That’s right – drinking more water will strengthen your immune system to ward off bacteria during flu season. There are many simple ways to track the water you’re drinking throughout the day, such as using a water bottle marked by ounces or downloading an app on your phone. If you aren’t a fan of plain water, try mixing in some fruit for flavor (use citrus fruits for extra immune power). As an added bonus, drinking more water will increase your energy level and improve your brain function!
9. Get seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
Sleeping longer is probably the most enjoyable way to steer clear of the flu. As a substitute, sleep is essential in your life. Each day you take on a new assignment, you have a lot to learn in a short period of time. Therefore, it’s important to be well-rested and ready for the day! Not to mention, you’re exposed to more germs than people in many other professions. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule will help your immune system function at its best. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults should strive for seven to nine hours of sleep per night. If you’re getting less than that, you may be putting yourself at risk.
10. Consider getting a flu shot.
Last but certainly not least, you should consider getting a flu shot (if recommended by your doctor). This is widely considered a quick, easy, and highly effective way to avoid getting – and spreading – germs during flu season. The optimal time to get a flu shot is in September or October, but it’s never too late! If you don’t have a regular physician, you can visit a health clinic at a local pharmacy.