Don’t let cold and flu season get the best of you! Even when it seems like the whole school is sick, there are things you can do to boost your immune system. Here are some easy tricks you can do and advice from our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook. May the odds to stay healthy be in your favor!
1. Take probiotics daily.
Eating yogurt or kefir for breakfast might have an added perk besides being a yummy meal. Several studies indicate that probiotics and supplements improve the immune system. How is that? About 90 percent of the body’s immune system calls the gut “home.” By taking a probiotics supplement, you are arming your immune system with all that it needs to fight off invading viruses and bacteria.
Not into probiotic supplements? No problem. A study from Critical Reviews in Food and Science Nutrition states that even fermented milk or other probiotic-rich foods will be sufficient in boosting the immune system.
2. Try elderberry syrup.
Most individuals reach for cough syrup only after the cold has hit. However, boosting your immune system may be as easy as taking elderberry syrup. You can even brew your own! Make it by boiling and simmering dried elderberries with water, cloves, and cinnamon and then adding raw honey.
Even though it seems trendy right now, elderberry is not new. In fact, elderberries have been used for centuries. Because elderberries are so high in flavonoids (immunity-boosting compounds), many individuals use this syrup as a daily preventative during cold and flu season. A word of warning: Raw or undercooked elderberries can be poisonous. If you’re not comfortable preparing your own elderberry syrup, you can easily purchase it.
3. Eat a balanced diet.
You are what you eat, right? The foods you consume can play a big role in strengthening your immune system. A good way to do this is by eating plenty of colorful foods. You can also look into super foods or immunity-boosting foods, like mushrooms or garlic.
4. Get the flu shot.
When you’re working with kids in any capacity, this is an absolute must. It’s one of the best preventative measures you can take to keep from getting sick. The flu shot does not cause you to get the flu; this is a myth that keeps circulating year after year. But it can keep you from feeling awful for days (or even weeks). Get your flu shot—seriously.
5. Be nice to your liver.
Think of your liver as a filter for your body. An overworked liver won’t be able to flush out toxins as easily as a healthy liver. Eat foods that support your liver (e.g. cruciferous veggies) or cleanse the liver by drinking lemon water each morning. Limit foods and activities, including consuming alcohol and smoking, that stress out the liver.
6. Drink lots of water.
Another good way to be nice to your liver (and other parts of your body) is to drink lots of water. It’s one of the easiest things you can do. Plus there are many other benefits to drinking water. Fill up a jug every day and try to get through it. Yes, it might lead to more bathroom breaks, which all teachers know is a challenge, but you’ll be glad you did.
7. Keep hand sanitizer nearby.
So many teachers wrote into our HELPLINE group about the importance of keeping your hands clean. The stats definitely support the importance of hand washing and using things like hand sanitizer. For respiratory illnesses (and colds) alone, washing hands can reduce illness by more than 20 percent. It can also reduce other diseases and illnesses by more than 50 percent. Get your students in this habit by practicing it yourself.
8. Get some sunshine.
Most people regard vitamin C as the one and only cold fighter, but new research suggests that vitamin D (or specifically, the lack of vitamin D) plays a key role in how often someone contracts an illness. Many individuals living in colder climates were found to be deficient in vitamin D, but when supplemented with fortified products, those individuals suffered half as many colds.
The takeaway: Either sneak out for some sunshine—if you can find it—or make sure your diet includes an appropriate amount of vitamin D.
9. Make exercise a priority.
We get it—being a teacher requires doing a lot of work outside of the classroom. Between planning and grading, it may seem hard to find time to squeeze in a workout, but exercise is even more important during cold and flu season. Exercise can improve health and bolster immunity by increasing circulation throughout the body. With good circulation, immune cells can move more effectively throughout the body, making you less prone to illness.
10. Look into essential oils.
Some people swear by essential oils. “I use them daily,” one teacher writes. “There are so many good uses.” If you’re looking for some natural methods, here are some of the top essential oils that reportedly boost the immune system.
11. Drink more green tea.
For another natural option, one teacher swears by the benefits of green tea. There are many articles about why green tea is good, and if it keeps you from getting sick, then why not give it a try? It’s also just a good alternative to sugary morning drinks that don’t have a lot of nutritional value.
12. Get good sleep.
Can a lack of sleep lead to getting sick? Yes, yes it can. Check out this doctor’s answer. On some level, we all know how important it is to get good rest, so then why is it so hard to do?
Don’t be afraid to say no to things or to skip that late-night grading. Your sleep is important to keeping you from getting sick and staying healthy overall.
13. Reduce your stress load.
Stress isn’t fun for anyone, but constantly feeling the strain of stress can drain your immune system. Do what you can to manage your stress levels. Make self-care a priority. Meditate, try yoga, or plan a fun date with good friends. This will make a difference in your overall risk of sickness and also in how well you can bounce back if you do find yourself with a cold.
One final piece of advice from a Helpline member, Meredith. She writes that just being a teacher strengthens your immunity. While she was joking (sorta), there is some truth to this. Maybe your profession will lead to many years of being healthy down the road!
How do you boost your immune system during cold and flu season? Share your best tip in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.
Plus, check out why it’s hard to be a teacher AND a parent during flu season.