How Teachers Can Tackle Winter Coughs and Colds

As our Northern Hemisphere colleagues turn their faces to the sun for the first time in months, we in the Southern Hemisphere slide deeper into Winter. I’ve been down and out with a bug for well over a week (not THE bug, so that’s something to be grateful for), submitting to the obligatory throat and nose swab, and telling anyone who glances in my direction that, ‘it’s just a cough’.

Winter has, of course, always been rife with cold and flu. Who hasn’t snuffled their way around the classroom (probably re-infecting the little darlings who infected you in the first place), before finally surrendering to a day of daytime TV? But, I think that the current pandemic has highlighted how complacent we’d become – particularly in countries where most everyday illnesses are easily treated. Now, when sharing your sneezes with friends, family, colleagues, and students means uncomfortable tests and self-isolations, not to mention dirty looks when you go out, we’re (starting) to think a bit more about how we handle colds and flu.

Really, we all know what we ought to be doing when we get sick. But here’s friendly reminder:

  1. If you’re sick, stay home. Yes, a well known brand of cold and flu medicine tells you to, ‘soldier on’. But even if you’ve popped those pills and you’re feeling better, you are still sick, and contagious. And if you’re sick with vomiting and diarrhea, it’s recommended you stay home for at least 48hrs after the last *ahem* episode. I know that sounds like a long time but gastro is highly contagious, and just hideous. I once went to an Eisteddfod and one of the kids had gastro. Turns out his whole family had it but they’d sent him off anyway. Not only was it horrendous for him (we had gone to Sydney, from Canberra. Imagine the bus ride for him), but as the only teacher prepared to deal with the mess I was then also sick as a dog for a good four days. Nice.
  2. It’s true – the best thing for common winter bugs is rest and fluid. I’m not a doctor, but the messages put out by healthcare professionals and agencies are pretty clear – treat the symptoms, drink lots, rest up. I also personally think chocolate helps. But I think chocolate helps everything. And I do believe in chicken soup – if nothing else it’s like a hug when no one else wants to be in arms reach of you. However, you should see your GP if symptoms persist, are extreme, or you have a high temperature. Note, I said see a doctor, not go back to work.
  3. Get vaccinated. Obviously this is prevention, rather than cure. My family gets vaccinated for flu every year because our boys have a condition which affects their lungs, but honestly it’s just good practice. Children are major spreaders of flu, so as teachers we have a responsibility to not only protect ourselves but also other vulnerable people from contracting flu. As far as the Covid vaccine goes, I’m not eligible yet but when I am I’ll be rolling up my sleeve. We’re so lucky in Australia to have access to a safe and effective vaccine, and I will definitely be making the most of it.

I know what you’re thinking – the work that needs to be prepared, the lesson plans that will be thrown into the disarray, the torture that 8C will put the relief teacher through. I know. It’s all true. But it’s a necessary evil to get you back to health, and back in the classroom.

Get well soon!

What are your strategies for winter coughs and colds?

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