A Teacher’s Guide to Keeping Well

I encounter 130 students each day. I jokingly say I work in a petri dish, but all jokes aside, I work in a petri dish. Want to know how many students were out last week with the flu? Six. That means six students breathed in my room and touched desks, doorknobs, and other things before getting sick. I realize I sound extremely paranoid. Any time the weather changes (Read: Every other week in Louisiana), I see an increase in sniffles, sneezing, coughing, and other wonderful noises in my classroom.

Here’s the thing – I cannot afford to miss school due to an illness. For one, it’s such a pain in the butt to miss a day. A teacher can’t *just* call out sick. We have to arrange a substitute and leave meticulous lesson plans. The lesson plans can’t include direct teaching, and they have to be something the students will be able to do independently. Secondly, I am given a certain number of sick days per year. Since I’m also a mom, I need to save those days for when my KID gets sick. I am sure this is the case for most working moms.

Fortunately, I’ve got a pretty good handle on keeping well when sickness seems to take over my classroom. Whether you’re a working mom, work from home mom, or stay at home mom, I think you’ll benefit from some of these tips:

As general maintenance…

1. Wash your hands ALL. THE. TIME.

I put this tip first because hand washing is the number one preventative measure for keeping well. I’m not talking about hand sanitizer – good old fashioned soap and warm water. I try to wash my hands at least once every other hour. If students are on the upswing with illness, I’ll bump it up to every hour. The non-negotiable is hand washing after using the restroom and before eating anything. I also try to steer clear of touching my face while at work, too.

2. Maintain healthy eating habits.

This one seems obvious, but if you eat healthy, you feel better, and your body is in a better position to fight off illness. I try to avoid process foods as much as possible, and I limit how much coffee and alcohol I drink. During the winter months I supplement with Vitamin C and Zinc. I also make sure to drink plenty of water.

3. Exercise!

Even if it’s hitting a daily steps goal, make sure that you’re keeping your body active. I find that when I’m exercising regularly, I feel better. There’s a reason for that.

4. Get enough sleep.

I aim for 7 hours of sleep per night. Sometimes I get a little less, but if I keep to schedule (and keep my little night owl on a schedule, too) it helps. When it comes down to it, if I’m feeling especially sluggish, I’ll skip the gym and go to sleep earlier.

If you’re starting to get sick…

Sometimes, all the preventative measures in the world don’t help. You still end up sick! These are some things I do to shorten the amount of time I’m down for the count. PLEASE NOTE: I AM NOT A DOCTOR. IF YOU ARE UNSURE OF ANY OF THESE THINGS, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR FIRST.

1. For nasal congestion, use a Neti pot.

I am obsessed with my Neti pot. I had never heard of it until I heard another teacher talking about how much she loved hers. It is disgusting and satisfying all at the same time. If you’ve never used one before, I suggest finding a YouTube video before. Basically, you pour a saline solution through your nasal cavity to clear things out. Woke up with a stuffed up nose? After using the Neti pot, you will be able to breathe through BOTH nostrils. It’s magic.

2. Soak in an epsom salt bath.

I’m not sure what about an epsom salt bath helps, but it does. You can buy bags of epsom salt at pretty much any store. Some have essential oils added to it (eucalyptus and spearmint combo is my favorite), but you can create your own blends, too. A quick Pinterest search will yield probably 100+ ways to amp up your epsom salts. When I start to feel lousy, I’ll take a 20+ minute soak daily.

3. Take elderberry syrup.

Another coworker told me about this one. Since I’m already pro-supplement – Vitamin C, Zinc, probiotics, etc. – I decided to give it a try. To me, it tastes like Crangrape juice. I have only used it when I started to get sick, and I’ve noticed it helps me get on top of my colds faster. I know several teachers who take it on the regular during the peak of cold and flu season, but I have not done so myself.

4. For a sore throat, gargle salt water and drink hot tea.

Gargling with warm salt water helps relieve sore throat pain. Drinking hot tea helps, too. You’re supposed to put honey and lemon in it, but I usually ask my husband to make his version of hot tea which has sweetened condensed milk.

When all else fails – go to the doctor.

I live by the three day rule (thanks, Dad!). If I am sick and can’t seem to get better after three days, I go to the doctor. This not only prevents things from getting worse, but it also screens for things I can’t pick up at home, like the flu or strep. I like to know if I’m harboring something contagious so I can keep a safe distance from my kid and my students.

These are the tips I’ve picked up throughout the years, and I hope you find something helpful. If there’s anything you do to keep well, please share! I might be a teacher, but I’m always down for learning something new.

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