Being a sick teacher is THE WORST. You either teach through the pain or you spend an hour plus working on lesson plans for a sub. And if you do go the sub route, you never know what you’ll be walking into when you return! So I’m here to help with ten (mostly) simple tricks for helping you stay healthy, even through the winter.
During my first few years of teaching, I was sick ALL THE TIME! My second year was the worst. I had Strep Throat three times in one school year. Yes, three! Plus I picked up a cold, a stomach bug, AND a sinus infection during the course of that same year. My class was a handful and I dreaded calling in for a sub, so I mostly just taught sick. My kids were used to me losing my voice and blowing my nose and falling into loud coughing fits. It was nightmare.
Over the years, I’ve discovered a slew of simple tricks that somehow manage to keep me healthy, even around sneezy, germy, and sniffly little children. Of course, before we get started, let me just state: I AM NOT A DOCTOR. I have no medical training! I’m simply sharing the strategies that work for me and I hope that someone might benefit. 🙂
#1: Wondrous Water
I know we’ve all heard about the importance of drinking more water. But I have experienced the magic of staying hydrated firsthand! My first few years, I didn’t drink much during the day because I didn’t have opportunities to go to the restroom very often. After being sick more than healthy, I decided that sneaking out for potty breaks was better than being out sick!
Step 1: Train Your Class
During my fourth year, I made a point to teach my class how to behave when I stepped out for a moment. We practiced, I threatened, I might have said I had a secret camera in the classroom… I also teamed up with the teacher next door and we made up a signal that meant “I’m running to the bathroom. Please make sure my class survives the next 3 minutes.”
Step 2: Drink A Lot of Water
To help me remember to keep drinking water all day, I bought cute insulated cups with straws (I find I drink more from a straw, for whatever reason), and I began trying out different ways of flavoring the water (because plain water wasn’t that appealing to me.)
I’d start my day by chugging a big glass of plain water. Then I’d fill my giant cup with flavored water and make sure it was empty by lunch time. At lunch time, I refilled and sipped the rest of the day.
You can try flavoring your water by adding fresh fruit, liquid water enhancers, or powdered mixes. Obviously, I recommend avoiding adding products with sugar, artificial sweeteners, or food coloring. My favorite right now is a powdered mix called “True Lime.” I like the Black Cherry Limeade because it reminds me of a Sonic Cherry Limeade, but they have a variety of other flavors, too! I only use half the packet for each of my drinks, so they last quite awhile too! (affiliate links)
I honestly believe this was the most beneficial thing I did to help me stop getting sick all the time. I have no idea if this is why, but in my mind, I imagine it’s because I’m constantly flushing all those germs right out of my body.
#2: Hourly Hand Spa
We all know the importance of washing your hands. But when you have 22 children in the room and only brief breaks throughout the day, it’s easy to forget or to fall back on using a quick squirt of hand sanitizer, which is exactly what I did the year I was sick 6 times! I know some people would disagree but I DO NOT support the use of hand sanitizer. I’ve read some pretty icky articles about that stuff and it definitely did not help me stay healthy.
Here’s what worked for me. First of all, I bought some really NICE hand soap that was just for me. I kept it on a shelf above the sink in our classroom and put a nice bottle of lotion next to it. It was like a mini hand spa!
Next, I made washing my hands a routine throughout the day. It changes every year depending on my schedule, but it is generally something simple like washing my hands: every time I use the restroom, when the kids line up for Specials, before I eat lunch, and right after dismissal.
#3: Nip the Nails
Okay, I realize that for some this one is big deal, BUT I swear it helps me stay healthy! When my nails are kept short, I rarely get sick. My only explanation is that it keeps germs from hiding under my nails and it keeps me from biting them! So if you can stand it, I highly recommend keeping your nails super short throughout sick season. If not you can’t stand it, make sure that you at least scrub up underneath your nails every time you wash your hands!
#4: Probiotic Power
Probiotics changed my life! I started taking these tiny little Probiotic Pearls years ago and found that not only did they rid me of all kinds of stomach issues and discomfort, but they seemed to give my immune system a huge BOOST! Again, I am not a doctor. I highly encourage you to do your research or talk to your actual doctor before adding any type of supplement to your diet. All that being said, I am definitely a believer! When I run out and go even a few days without taking one, I notice the difference immediately. My favorite brand is this one shown below but there are tons of choices!
Enzymatic Therapy Acidophilus Pearls (90 Capsules) (affiliate link)
#5: The Preemptive Strike
So here’s another trick that works for me but has no medical basis that I know of… I call it the Preemptive Strike because I essentially attack whatever badness is brewing in my body before it can take over! For whatever reason, it works for me! I do this whenever I start to feel the beginning of an illness – body aches, sore throat, runny nose, etc.
After work, I eat a big bowl of some kind of brothy soup and drink a huge glass of water. Then I run a steamy hot bath and soak until I feel toasty warm. As soon as I get out, I throw on warm jammies and socks and go to bed early. If I’m still achy or chilled, I cuddle up with a heat pack. And sometimes I take medicine for the symptoms, too. Then I make sure to get a good night’s sleep! No clue why this works, but it does for me! Maybe it’s because I relax and get rest, or maybe the heat helps fight off the germs? Don’t know. Just know that I almost always feel all better the next day.
#6: Tame Your Allergies
Anyone out there dealing with seasonal allergies knows that this is easier said than done, BUT it’s definitely worth it. Once I got my allergies under control, I started getting sick way less often. I went to an Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialist to get help with this. He explained that my sinuses were inflamed due to allergies, which in turn made it harder for my sinuses to function efficiently. Instead of germs being swept out properly, they were trapped!
For me, it took a combination of a corticosteroid nasal spray and a daily antihistamine to get things under control, but everyone is different. My point is that seasonal allergies aren’t just annoying, they can actually cause you to get sick more often.
#7: Skip the Sugar
Ugh. This is a hard one for me. When I’m feeling stressed or sick, I go straight for comfort foods like starches and sugars. Donuts? Yes, please! Unfortunately, this is the absolute WORST thing to do. I’ve noticed that when I eat a lot of sugar and processed foods, my allergies flare up. I’ve learned that sugar and junk food lead to inflammation in the body which in turn weakens the immune system!
When you’re feeling stressed, worn down, or on the verge of getting sick, this is THE MOST IMPORTANT TIME to eat healthy. Force yourself to eat fresh meals of protein, veggies, and healthy fats. It makes such a big difference!
#8: The Daily Wipe Down
This one is easy! During cold and flu season, I create an end-of-day routine in my classroom where a few helpers go around the room with pre-moistened cleaning cloths and wipe down EVERYTHING! They wipe down desks, door handles, the classroom sink, iPads, headphones, table tops and other shared furniture and supplies. They love it and it helps keep the classroom fresh and clean! My favorite are these Greenworks wipes. They aren’t as harsh as the Lysol wipes.
#9: Tiny Positives
Right before I get sick, I’m almost always feeling stressed and overwhelmed. I don’t know if my body is fighting an illness, which leads me to feel stressed and overwhelmed, or if being stressed causes me to get sick. Either way, one thing that helps me is to focus on tiny positives. When I’m feeling rough already, it’s too hard to focus on big stuff so I search for little things to look forward to throughout the day.
For example, I might decide I’ll make myself an awesome coffee with my favorite creamer when the kids go to Specials that morning. I’ll pack a favorite (healthy) meal for lunch. I’ll plan to watch a favorite show after work. It doesn’t matter what you choose, just that you plan some simple things that you can look forward to throughout the day.
I have no proof, except my own experience, that this helps keep you from getting sick… but it works for me so maybe it could work for you, too!
#10: Lighten, Brighten, Breathe
This one will be a little too “out-there” for some but it made a huge difference for me! After getting sick over and over, I began to notice how I felt right before I ended up getting sick. It was always the same! I’d get this feeling of being run down, almost like the emotional weight of all that stress was becoming physical. It was like something was literally dragging me down!
So one day, when I knew I was on the verge of getting sick yet again, I started to think about the opposite of that dragged down feeling. I imagined myself feeling lighter and lifted. I imaged myself full of bright, warm light. I kept returning to this feeling throughout the day, paired with some nice deep breaths. By the end of the day, I felt better! My aches and sore throat went away. Could this be a coincidence? Of course! But I do this now whenever I notice that icky feeling setting in and it honestly seems to help.
That’s it! You now know my ten favorite tricks for avoiding illness even when you’re spending every day in a cesspool of germs.
And if you do find yourself under the weather this winter, here are a few handy resources that make sub-plans extra easy! 🙂
First up is the Winter Holiday Literacy Pack for 2nd through 4th graders. This pack is full of fun winter activities including creative writing, cause and effect, fact and opinion, main idea, and more!
And if you need some ready-to-go math work, you might check out my Snowman Scaffolded Word Problems Pack with word problem task cards for 2nd through 3rd grade.
I wish you all a happy, sick-free winter! And I’d love to hear your tricks for staying healthy.
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