Sunday, January 20, 2013

Keeping Kids and Teachers Healthy During Flu Season

Disclaimer: The author of this blog is not a medical professional.

It's flu season but the good news is there are endless ways to fight against getting sick.  Every year, in the month of October I get the flu shot.  I have found this to be extremely beneficial in avoiding getting the flu, AKA, the H1N1 virus.  I think almost anyone working with young children is at high risk of getting the sick with the flu.  Students and teachers give each other hugs freely.  Educators teach children to share things in the classroom.  Along with the shared use of materials, toys, and computers comes the sharing of germs albeit an unintentional result.
I could not get the flu vaccine this October because I was sick, then well, then sick again.  By Christmas Eve I had a fever, chills, and a cough.  Fortunately, the medical center was willing to see me.  The doctor said, "We'll give you a test for the flu."  (I didn't know there was a test for the flu.)  I asked the nurse, "Will you be drawing blood or swabbing my throat?"  She said, "Actually, we'll be swabbing your nostrils.  I'll need to do both and I have to get in far."  I swallowed hard and quickly prepared myself for what was going to be an unpleasant experience.  After she gave me the test we needed to wait about ten minutes to get the results.  The verdict:  I did not have the flu and started feeling better in a few days.  Flash forward a few more weeks and I begin to hear the media reports about the flu spreading from state to state and reaching an alarming number of people in some locations.  Now I become concerned about getting the flu.  So in January, I get my flu shot.  This is the latest during the flu season that I've received the vaccine.  Hopefully, it will protect me against many strains of the virus.  My cost was $30.00 but insurance might pick up some of the cost.  If you're a teacher of young children, you might be thinking there's just no way to keep healthy all winter long.  Or maybe you have your own ideas of how to combat the flu.  We've all made disinfecting wipes our best friend but what else can we do?  Let's do what teachers often do, and take a quick review.

1.  Teach children healthy habits.   Not all students are as mindful about germs as the character called Bo Hess was from the movie entitled  Signs.  Teach and provide reminders on how to prevent the spread of germs.  Model proper hand washing procedures.  Tell children to wash thoroughly and long enough to sing the "Happy Birthday" song twice.  Teach children to interlace their fingers when washing their hands as shown in the puzzle printable posted below.  Post a visual reminder above the bathroom sink to assist children in remembering to wash their hands.  Teach children about the spread of germs.
This hand washing puzzle is from the CDC.
Teach children the proper way to cover their cough or sneeze which is into the elbow, sleeve, or armpit.  When I grew up it was "Cover your cough."  Most of the time I put my hand to my mouth to "Cover my cough."   Educate children about germs in a manner which they can understand.  Recently I saw an activity where a school nurse took glitter glue and rubbed it on her hand in front of a group of children.  Then she began touching things causing the glitter glue to rub onto those items.  This gave the children a visible representation about how germs spread.  The CDC has also created lesson plan activities for teachers to use in the classrooms.  Some of these include printable sheets that could be colored and laminated and used for posting above the sink.  There is a sheet for the boys' bathroom as well as the girls' bathroom.  Since the printables are ones that are colored in, the teacher can color them herself tailoring them to fit the needs of the population she teaches.  The artist that created the graphic for the printable drew big smiles on the child's face.  I think this was a great idea to help children associate hand washing is a pleasurable activity instead of a chore. You can get a copy here.  This is a large file so it might take a few minutes to download.  

Cut out and laminate.  Put in the puzzle area when teaching a healthy habits unit.
 Make enough copies for each child to take one home.
2.  Think about what really needs to be disinfected.  Lets start with those things we wear around our necks everyday.  They're called lanyards!  How often do you disinfect it?  If your like me, chances are it's been a while.  It's like wearing germs!  Wash it or get a new one from time to time.  Probably the best thing would be to simply wear your school ID without it.

3.  Oh how they love those toys!  If you are a mom of young ones, or a pre-k or kindergarten teacher you've probably spent countless hours cleaning toys.  Some of the hard plastic type toys can go in the top rack of the dishwasher.  This might take a little time off of the cleaning duties.  I've never had a problem with the end results, but don't blame me if a toy melts or if your dishwasher becomes unhappy.  Avoid putting in toys with deep crevices as they don't dry well.  Never put toys with metal parts in the dishwasher.
Save time and wash toys in the top rack of the dishwasher.
4.  Provide each child his/her own set of supplies.  Avoid having a classroom set of scissors, pencils, glue, and so forth.  The more children handle and pass things around the room, so goes the germs with them.  Assign each child his/her own number and mark the number on the materials.  Have them use their own materials/supplies wherever possible.

5.  Consider getting the flu vaccineThe Center for Disease Control recommends this vaccine for persons 6 months old and older.  Although certain allergies prevent some individuals from doing so.  Here's a link for more information about groups of people that should get the vaccine.  Thankfully, it's not a big needle or a painful shot - not like the dreaded Tetanus/Pertussis vaccine.  Some school divisions have even set up clinics during the school day for students and staff to get vaccinated.  For children there is also the option of the mist version.  

It wasn't so bad.  Really!
6.  Get enough sleep and eat right.  I know, "Easier Said Than Done."  But healthy food and rest helps our bodies fight disease.  What about you?  Do you have a tip for staying healthy during the seasonal flu months?  Share what you know.

Lessons by Molly © 2013  All rights reserved.