As the school year goes on and the weather gets colder, students spend more and more time indoors. While there are some great things about the fall and wintertime, one thing that’s a lot less fun is cold and flu season. While most of the diseases that get passed around schools are pretty minor, getting sick can set students behind on their schoolwork and also spread to classmates and family members.
Since staying physically healthy is an important part of keeping up and having a successful school year, let’s take a few minutes to talk about easy ways to make sure students avoid getting sick (aside from essential healthcare like vaccines and regular checkups).
Sometimes, the first thing that comes to mind can also be one of the most effective. Washing hands with soap after using the bathroom and before eating is something that all children learn from an early age, and making sure it’s a habit is extremely beneficial. Kids can associate handwashing with playing outside, using shared equipment (i.e. school computers), and blowing their noses.
Hand sanitizer can also be a great way to keep hands germ-free without disrupting class by constantly heading to the sink. While this may sound like much, hand sanitizer is cheap, easy to use, and can save parents and teachers a lot of headaches. Limited exposure to dirt has actually been found to be healthy for children’s immune systems, so students shouldn’t feel like they have to sanitize obsessively, but in germy environments such as schools during cold and flu season, staying extra clean can make a big difference.
Another simple trick that should sound familiar to anyone student from kindergarten up is covering their mouth and nose when they cough or sneeze. While (hopefully) not news to anyone, coughing into a tissue or elbow instead of your hands goes a long way towards preventing the spread of disease. Tissues may not always be readily available in every room of a school, but sending kids to school with a small pack of tissues in their pockets or backpack is a cheap and effective way of fixing that problem. In the same vein, it’s a good idea for kids to avoid sharing water bottles, snacks, and other personal items.
So far, everything here is pretty basic, but there are also some less obvious things that can help reduce the chances of a student getting sick.
Developing a regular fitness routine may not seem like something that prevents kids from getting sick, but it actually is. Aside from the benefits that we’ve talked about in other posts, studies have shown that staying active has a noticeable effect on students’ immune systems.
Another way of ensuring proper immune function is to make sure that students have a healthy eating schedule. Being well nourished is the first step towards good overall health, and avoiding sickness is no different. Keeping kids properly nourished gives their bodies the energy they need to fight off germs while learning and interacting with their classmates.
If you’ve read this blog before, you may already be able to guess what our final suggestion will be for today: getting a good night’s sleep. As noted, a consistent sleep schedule is one of the most important factors in academic performance and executive functioning, and staying healthy is another of the benefits that come along. Kids need anywhere from 8 to 12 hours of sleep every night (see our post on the topic), and students who don’t get enough sleep will not only have trouble staying alert, but their natural defense systems will also have less time and energy to do their jobs properly. Getting enough sleep on a consistent basis means that students’ immune systems, just like the rest of them, can stay hard at work, keeping them disease-free and performing well.
Regardless of how simple these tips may sound, they can make a huge difference. In addition to making sure that students stay healthy and able to learn, following these suggestions can ensure that they remain in top shape throughout the school year, allowing them to learn, grow, and enjoy themselves.