School Health and Wellness//
January 15, 2023
The sniffling and sneezing we experience during these dark winter months often result in empty classroom seats and delayed academic progress. There may also be a call for substitute teachers and thoughts of remote learning.
As teachers and students return after the holiday season, many schools are now reporting an uptick in influenza cases and lingering colds.
Lisa A. Smith, M.D., Medical Director of COVID Services for One to One Health and Assistant Professor in Surgery and Pediatrics at the University of Tennessee, says she's not surprised. "The flu didn't happen in 2020 because we were all isolating and wearing masks," Smith says. "Most schools are now mask-optional, and quarantines aren't as strictly regulated. We're seeing the consequences of the ‘return to normal’—our situation evolves every day."
Some schools have continued to offer remote learning to keep as many people healthy as possible—and in school.
But if that's not an acceptable option for your school, here are some general health tips you can encourage to help your school community stay healthy as cold, flu, and COVID-19 variant cases continue to rise.
Focus on Proactive Health
Sometimes the best defense is a great offense—set expectations for students and faculty to follow proactive measures.
Remind students and faculty to follow basic health guidelines:
- wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds;
- use sanitizer when soap and water aren't available;
- don't touch your face; and
- stay home when you are sick.
"Not touching your face works for the flu and common cold even more than COVID," Smith said.
But the most proactive action is to get vaccinated. "Ten years ago, we were only telling young and old people to get the flu shot, but now we recommend that everyone get it," Smith said. "The flu shot has great data behind it—reducing the severity of illness and decreasing the risk of hospitalization."
Tune in to live webinars every week during the school year to get specific, research-backed insight you can immediately apply at your school.
Use Supplements as a Resource
Your body needs vitamins and minerals to operate efficiently. Getting the right amount can be even more important during cold and flu season. And when you're deficient, the benefits are even more impactful.
This is why products like Airborne®—an immune support supplement created by Schiff Vitamins available in various forms, including gummy, chewable, dissolvable tablets, and powder. "Supplements can be beneficial as an added source of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids—all important in maintaining the health of your immune system," Smith said. "Many also rely on Vitamin D and zinc to help fight off viruses and infections, which is only effective if you are deficient. Taking them in excess can be detrimental, and there is little evidence that super doses are beneficial."
Prioritize Good Air Circulation
Small particles that people exhale can contain virus particles, including the virus that causes COVID-19. Improving ventilation (airflow) can help prevent virus particles from accumulating in the air. “Proper air circulation filters the air more effectively, ultimately decreasing the incidence of the flu and cold virus," says Smith.
If opening windows or upgrading your ventilation system isn't a realistic option for your school, consider using a Corsi Rosenthal Box in each of your classrooms—a homemade air purifier that reduces the number of pathogens in the air.
The best part? It's accessible for all budgets (approximately $75 for the necessary items). And you could add it to your STEAM curriculum by having your students help design and construct it! "I've found the Corsi Rosenthal Box very effective," Smith says. "I've even used it personally."
The flu, COVID-19, and the common cold share many of the same symptoms, making self-diagnosis difficult. This is why Smith stresses the importance of getting an accurate medical diagnosis. "Runny nose, low-grade fever, body aches—these symptoms could be anything from strep throat to COVID-19. So it's worth sorting out," Smith said. "Knowing what you have is particularly helpful in the case of the flu and COVID. Doctors can treat these with antiviral medicine, but treatment is only effective if started in the early stages. And while antivirals don't cure them, they do diminish how vicious your illness is."
As you continue to head off the cold and flu, encourage your school community to practice healthy habits: Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage stress, stay hydrated, and eat nutritious foods.