Finding ways to maintain the health of ourselves and our families is always a challenge. If your family is like mine, you’ve been battling the usual colds and allergies. You might even have a special appetizer of RSV, flu, strep or hey, why not some pink eye too! This fall, let’s look at how we can keep our families staying healthy and engaged during those days home.
What is it?
If we were to rely on the diagnosis of my almost 4 year old who loves Doc McStuffins, every sniffle and sneeze would be, “Bugs in the belly!” But really, the question these days is, “Well, what IS it?” Is it flu, COVID-19, allergies or just a cold? Additionally, RSV is on the rise. Basically, it’s a Heinz 57 of fall illness. Just take your pick.
It’s increasingly tough right now to determine what each sniffle really is considering the vast array of possibilities. So many illnesses share symptoms, especially flu and COVID-19. If your family is anything like mine, we’re all coming home each day with some new cough, sniffle or hey, let’s throw in a little pink eye! What makes staying healthy even harder is deciding what to do. Meaning, when do you decided to stay home? You know and I know, we just can’t always do that. If I stayed home every time I or one of my kids presented with a cold symptom, I’d never end up leaving the house! So, how can we make the best choice of when to stay home? Ultimately, it comes down to identifying which symptoms are indicative of something more serious. Then we make that choice to stay home or stay home with our littles, thus allowing time to recover and prevent spreading it around work and school.
Comparing the symptoms
As we head into the height of cold and flu season, take as many steps as you’re able to protect yourself from coming down with something and staying healthy. Take advantage of the opportunities to be vaccinated against flu and COVID-19, for one. I’ve also found that going back to masking while I am at school might be a way to prevent some exposure. Not my favorite thing, but hey, if it works, it works, right?
The National Institute of Health, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services put together this really helpful chart that compares the symptoms of cold, flu, allergy and COVID-19. What it does not include, however, is symptoms of RSV. This is one to be careful of since reported cases of the virus are up, substantially this year. According to this recent article from NPR, it is likely that the broad lifting of COVID restrictions is making us more susceptible to RSV, which during normal cold seasons mostly affects the very young and the oldest of our population. I’ve had to use this more frequently than I’d like in the past few weeks in an effort to keep my family staying healthy.
Tips for staying healthy
There are certain precautions that we can take to stay healthy during the height of cold season. Certainly, it may be unavoidable that we are just going to get sick. That being said, following some of these steps should help to limit the influx of illness coming into our families this fall.
- Depending on availability of vaccinations in your community and any immunocompromised individuals in your home that prevent the ability to be vaccinated, getting vaccinated is a key step to preventing illnesses such as flu and COVID-19 and staying healthy.
- Keep your distance. If anyone around you is sick and exhibiting symptoms, avoid close contact with them. As a mom, this is obviously a tough one if your child is the one presenting symptoms. It’s almost a given that it will begin to circulate through your home. Do what you can.
- Wash your hands! This one is a no brainer and isn’t something new. In the wake of the height of COVID, there is greater access to hand washing stations in heavily populated areas as well as sanitizer. If you don’t think you’ll have access to these things, make sure to carry some sanitizer with you and wash when you get home. Not sure how long to wash? Remember the trick of humming the Happy Birthday song twice while washing up.
- Cover your mouth. Make sure to cover up coughs and sneezes. Use your hands (then wash them), a tissue, your sleeve, inside your shirt. Check out this article and video to see how far an uncovered cough and a sneeze can travel.
- Don’t touch your face, eyes or mouth! Germs spread very easily through these areas. If you need to touch your face, make sure to wash your hands first. This is key to staying healthy.
Staying occupied, staying healthy at home
My family has been lucky (HA!) to be stuck at home for long stretches already this year. Between my kids, my husband and I, we’ve run the illness gamut. Some of those days, we may not be feeling all that terrible and just need a break from the monotony of tv and soup and tea. I’ve also noticed that when my kids take Motrin, it renders them into a state of faux wellness. We jokingly call it “hulk juice” at home. When this happens, it’s hard to keep the kids from overextending themselves. I try to have some fun activities on hand for them to do that don’t involve exerting too much physical energy.
Make sure to subscribe to our Maryland Teacher Tutors Education Station page to access our amazing resources and bundles! These come in super handy on sick days at home, weekends when the kids say, “I’m boreeeeeed!”, rainy days at the beach, and long breaks. Our content is teacher created for teachers, home educators and parents wanting to moonlight in an instructional role while engaging with their children at home.
Inner healing while staying healthy
It’s always healing to talk over one’s feelings. What I like to do with my 7 year old who is in second grade is to talk things through and to also have him take the opportunity to write out his feelings. Writing is great practice for early grades. This SEL Emotions Journal helps kids analyze and explore their various feelings. Have them take some time to draw and write about what makes them happy, sad, or angry. Having the time at home while recovering from being sick is a good time to sit back and examine some challenges and successes they might be having at school, home or in other activities. It also allows them to explore their feelings connected to those activities, places and people while talking it over with you.
When I was home recently with my sick kiddo, I took advantage of that time to sit and review our morning routines which had really gotten out of wack lately. I felt like we were always running late, always stressing and always forgetting things! That doesn’t help anyone. So, I pulled up these resources and worked through them again. It really helped my oldest who is equal parts independent and scattered. We found that it helps him to have a framework of what he needs to get done to stay on task especially in the mornings.
Try getting started with this Morning Routine for Kids. They can use it as a framework of what their morning will look like and make adjustments as needed. My son found that it helps him to lay his clothes out the night before. Make sure that his computer is charging as soon as he comes in each day from school and to put his water bottle right into the fridge. Anything that we can do to prep ahead of time makes the mornings so much more manageable.
What do you do to make your morning routines move more smoothly? What kinds of things are you doing on days off when you’re recovering from being sick? And, how are you and your families staying healthy? Let us know in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!
Courtney is an MTT tutor, academic coach, and blog contributor for MTTES. If you check out our FB and Instagram pages, you might see her giving a storytime with her son Jack through the company’s Facebook Live service. Courtney’s love of the English language, learning, and creative writing inspired her to contribute relevant content to teachers, tutors, parents, and homeschoolers seeking support across an array of trending topics. She and her teacher husband have two small children and reside in Baltimore, MD with their dog Lottie May.
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