Throughout the school year, teachers and students spend a lot of time together interacting, connecting and collaborating in the classroom. These interactions are, of course, part of what makes a classroom such a unique and gratifying place to be. Unfortunately, they also make a classroom a prime location for the flu virus to spread.
Flu viruses circulate easily and swiftly. Simply making contact with another person infected with a flu virus can be enough to perpetuate the spread of germs. This can lead to an outbreak of the flu at school, which will result in numerous absences that can affect a student’s performance or cause a student to get behind on their workload.
Fortunately, there is a lot that teachers can do to stifle the spread of germs when flu season hits.
- Wash hands regularly. The cardinal rule of flu prevention is regularly washing your hands with soap and warm water – especially after sharing items with students, before and after eating, and after making a visit to the restroom. It is also important to try and remember to keep your hands away from your face as much as possible.
- Routinely disinfect classroom surfaces. You don’t have to scrub down every inch of your classroom each night before heading home. Instead, identify the few places in your classroom that see the highest traffic, and regularly wipe them down with a disinfectant. This will prevent germs from lingering in these places.
- Encourage covering coughs and sneezes. Let’s face it, kids aren’t always mindful that they’re coughing and sneezing all over the place. It’s perfectly acceptable to remind students to cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze. Encourage them to use a sleeve or tissue to cover their mouths, and to wash their hands afterwards.
- Make hand sanitizer readily available. If you place hand sanitizer in key locations throughout your classrooms, students will be more likely to use it. Consider stocking bottles of sanitizer near the classroom exit, on group tables, near supplies storage, or next to locker spaces. Be sure to save an extra bottle for your desk, too!
- Get vaccinated. We get it, getting a shot is no fun. However, a flu shot can be one of the best defenses against a flu virus. Plan on receiving the vaccine every year, at least a couple weeks before flu season commences. But if you’re a bit behind schedule, you should still get the shot. Even if you catch the flu, the vaccine will still have reduced some of the symptoms and shortened the amount of time you felt sick.
- Limit activities that spread germs. We’ve already mentioned that germs spread easily when teachers and students share objects. You can also stunt the spread of germs by limiting the number of activities in which students are sharing classroom supplies or objects. Incorporate more activities that require students to work individually or allow students to use their own school supplies.
- Educate students and parents. Take a few minutes out of your lesson plan to remind students that flu season is approaching and that you will all have to work together to keep everyone healthy. Prompt students on how to prevent spreading viruses and limit exposure to germs. You can also post reminders throughout your classroom to practice good hygiene. Many teachers will send a letter to parents reminding them of the approaching flu season and offering pointers on how to stay flu-free at home.
- Practice healthy habits during flu season. Making an extra effort to stay healthy during flu season ensures that your immune system will be top notch if you are exposed to germs. Simple things like getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, avoiding or mitigating stress, and eating lots of fruits and vegetables will help guard you against coming down with the