Everyone knows that schools are breeding grounds for coughs and colds during the winter months. If you work in the classroom, how can you avoid picking up every bug that’s going round? In this blog, we give some useful tips.
One of the best ways to avoid picking up bugs is to maintain excellent personal hygiene and to encourage the students in your classes to do the same. Use a tissue to catch coughs and snot (then bin them!)… wash hands regularly with soap and water…avoid touching your face with your hands…by doing this and encouraging your students to follow suit, you’ll help prevent the spread of infection. Perhaps you could do a lesson focused on this at the start of the season and offer rewards to students who you see following the guidance?
Many professionals who work in higher risk environments take the time to get themselves the seasonal flu shot. Although this will only cover you for a few major strains, it can be worth considering getting this at the start of the season – particularly if you’re in a high risk group. Guidance on who should consider getting the flu vaccine can be found here.
Eating a broad and balanced diet is one of the most crucial things we can do to keep ourselves healthy the natural way. By doing this, we can ensure that our body has the raw materials it needs to fight off infections when they arise – before they take hold. Here are some tips on what you should be including in your diet:
- Lots of fruit and veg. At least 5 portions a day is the current UK guideline. Try to ensure that you include at least one portion with each meal, and carry additional as snacks. Pack a banana or some dried fruit in your school bag, make a batch of home-made soup and take it to work for lunch – if you plan how you’ll get enough then it’s really not too tricky!
- More fish! Including oily fish like salmon or mackerel. Even if oily fish aren’t your thing, any fish will help to broaden and boost the nutrients in your body. Try opting for a tuna baguette/jacket potato over a cheese and beans one! If you really don’t like fish, opt for protein sources which are as nutrient dense and unprocessed as possible.
- Less sugar and processed food. Ditch the instant noodles, cakes, biscuits etc. and make something fresh! Empty calories may make you feel full for an hour, or give you a hit of satisfying sugar – but they’ll generally add very little to your body in terms of valuable nutrition and they certainly won’t help you fight off infections.
- Water. Listen to your body. Drink when you’re thirsty and stay hydrated. It will help your body to flush toxins from your tissues and keep you feeling alert throughout the day.
Nutrition is, of course a subject which can polarise people – but whatever diet you prefer, your food intake needs to be broad enough to cover all your nutritional requirements – so think carefully about what you’re eating if you want to avoid getting sick all the time.
Moderate, regular exercise is recommended for keeping us fit and healthy in general. But does it affect your immune system and help to prevent illness? There is no definitive evidence to support this idea, but some of the theories are:
- Physical activity may help flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways. This may reduce your chance of getting a cold, flu, or other illness.
- Exercise causes change in antibodies and white blood cells (WBC). WBCs are the body’s immune system cells that fight disease. These antibodies or WBCs circulate more rapidly, so they could detect illnesses earlier than they might have before. However, no one knows whether these changes help prevent infections.
- The brief rise in body temperature during and right after exercise may prevent bacteria from growing. This temperature rise may help the body fight infection better. (This is similar to what happens when you have a fever.)
- Exercise slows down the release of stress hormones. Some stress increases the chance of illness. Lower stress hormones may protect against illness.
While exercise can be good for keeping you fit and healthy, rest is also crucial. It allows your body time to repair itself and fight off any unwanted bacterial or viral infections. Make sure you get plenty of sleep at night, and don’t over-do it at the weekend, otherwise you may find yourself catching that classroom cold more easily than you might otherwise have done! Equally, take a break from exercise if you’re feeling under the weather – your body doesn’t have the resources to build muscle at the same time as fighting infections so keep the exercise level lower when you’re not feeling great and this will help you to fight it off faster.
Keep Your Gut Healthy
Your gut wall houses about 70% of the cells that make up your immune system. It therefore stands to reason that you’ll fight off infections more easily if you have a healthy gut. To keep this part of your body in ship-shape, you’ll need to consume both prebiotics (foods that feed your gut bacteria) and probiotics (foods that contain live bacteria which are beneficial to your gut). Some things you can consider consuming to promote gut health are:
- Inulin – can be bought as a powder and easily added to a huge variety of foods and drinks – often comes from chicory root. (prebiotic)
- Fruit and veg with prebiotic properties – such as banana, onion, garlic, apple skin
- Fermented Vegetables – these are hugely beneficial to your gut health and can come in many forms, such as sauerkraut (probiotic)
- Raw honey – is said to contain a vast array of useful bacteria and enzymes. DO NOT ADD IT TO HOT DRINKS or heat to over 40 degrees though – or you’ll kill all the beneficial bits! (probiotic)
- Raw apple cider vinegar – again, this is reputed to contain huge amounts of beneficial bacteria and enzymes. As with raw honey, avoid heating it. Try making salad dressings with it, or drinking a tablespoon full mixed with a glass of warm (not hot!) water. (Probiotic)
- Natural youghurts/unpasturised cheese – most of us are familiar with the beneficial gut bacteria which can be obtained from these sources. (Probiotic)
Cold and Flu Meds
If all else has failed and you have come down with a cold, most school leaders will expect you to lead by example and do your best to battle in to work, anyway. They expect children to build resilience and only take time off when they have a vomiting bug or particularly bad cold/case of the flu, so it’s important that you do the same.
So stock up on cold and flu meds, make a batch of healthy soup for your lunches and make sure you get plenty of fluids and rest when you’re home during evenings and weekends and you’ll be back to fighting-fit in no time!
Are you seeking SEND work or staff?
If you’re not already registered with Axcis, but would like to seek a SEND teaching or support position, why not get in touch or register with Axcis today and find out how we can assist you? Alternatively, if you are seeking SEND staff for your school or provision, or would like to refer a friend to us, pop us and email – we’d be happy to help!