5 Tips for Staying Healthy in the Art Room this Winter

I don’t know about your state, but here in Wisconsin, flu season is in full swing. I haven’t had a full class of kids for weeks on end. I get jumpy around this time of year, because I know it’s just a matter of time before I’m home sick on the couch requesting a sub. To make matters worse, a few weeks ago, a poor little second grader got sick in my room. Not only that, but our veteran custodian said it was the worst he’s ever seen. Yikes.




This year, I vowed that I was going to try extra hard to stay healthy. So far, it’s working. Here are my top five tips for staying healthy in the art room this winter.

1. Get a flu shot 

In the past, there have been a million reasons why I didn’t get a flu shot. I was too busy to make an appointment. It would make my arm sore. I heard rumors that flu shots actually make people sick. Whatever my excuses, for the past three years I’ve decided they aren’t good enough. I quit complaining, get the shot, and have been flu free ever since.

2. Wash your hands after every class

I realize that this is a bit of a no-brainer, but it bears repeating: you cannot wash your hands enough. After every class, I make a quick trip to my sink to remove the germs from one group in preparation for the next. With all that washing, you may need a good hand lotion. I recommend this one.

3. Don’t touch the kids!

When I made my resolve to stay healthy, I started taking note of how closely I was interacting with my students. Between high-fives, side-arm hugs, and patting them on the head (does anyone else have this problem?) I realized I was getting WAY too close. I feel at this point, I should remind you that I teach elementary school. Perhaps teachers at the middle and high schools don’t have the problem of every child wanting to hug them on the way out the door. Anyway, my solution was to literally take a step back. Now, I simply just stand farther away from the kids and give them a friendly wave on their way out the door.

4. Avoid mystery snacks

At my school, I get snacks or treats delivered from students at least three times a week. Birthdays, classroom parties, star of the week, you name it; all the snacks come to me. Besides helping me keep off the pounds, discreetly disposing of these treats dramatically reduces the amount of germs I’m exposed to. If I’m really, really craving the chocolate chip cookie that showed up on my desk, I just remind myself that there’s no way to know what was on the little hands that touched it before it arrived.

5. Rest

This advice is perhaps the most difficult for me to follow. I like to constantly be on the go. However, this time of year, it’s important to remember to take a step back and take care of yourself. Whether it’s taking a yoga class, doing a relaxation exercise, or curling up with a good book, rest gives the immune system a chance to stay healthy. Similarly, when the inevitable happens and you are feeling under the weather, stay home! Your body will thank you.

Tell us, how do you stay healthy at school?Any magical tips out there?

Has the flu season plagued your school? 

Amanda Heyn

Amanda is the Senior Editor at AOE. She has a background in teaching elementary art and enjoys working to bring the best ideas from the world of art ed to the magazine each day. 


  • Mrs.C

    Cardinal rule of teaching… NEVER touch your hands to your face(eyes,nose,mouth) unless you know they are ABSOLUTELY clean! Always take the second tissue in the box(you don’t know who touched the last one!) WASH your hands A LOT! (carry lots of hand cream for said hands that become dry from so much scrubbing) I regularly wipe down my keyboard/Smartboard remote with Lysol wipes( I share my computer with another teacher) I wipe down my tables periodically with Lysol wipes too! I get my flu shot every Fall( didn’t one year and was out for a week, so sick!) My classroom windows are always open on a crack for fresh air( when I have a prep I open them and air out the room for a few minutes to blow out the germs!) I keep my room on a comfortable but not stuffy, temp( stuffy, hot classrooms breed germs!) If you are sick, REST! I had a pretty nasty cold the other week and kept dragging myself to school… after 3 days of not having a voice one of my Kindergarteners asked why I wasn’t home in bed if I was sick? I listened to that wise child and stayed home the next day and rested! It worked wonders! Stay healthy everyone! :)

    • What a funny tip about the tissues. I’ve never thought of that!

  • Mrs. Hirst

    In my high school classroom I move the tissue box to the back of the room -not on my desk. I never share the box I keep in my office! I have a giant bottle of hand sanitizer next to it. When I grade artwork or piles of reflections or other written things, I keep lysol wipes next to me. I try hard to keep my hands away from my face and I take my coffee cups home to sterilize in the dishwasher, and try NEVER to put my pen, pencil or paintbrushes close to my mouth. (crazy habit I have). The hardest thing to manage is touching and breathing their air! I regularly sit with my students and work closely with them. I try to remember not to get so close, but can’t help it. I only hope that doing that will build my immune system.

    • hahahaha. I’m laughing so hard at “breathing their air.” It IS hard to avoid that!

  • Lisa

    I wash my tables once a day – at the end of the day (Unless it’s a messy lesson, then they get washed after that class). I wash my hands before I eat, most times. I high five kids all the time. I hug students a lot. I tend to put pencils in my mouth a lot (BAD HABIT). Never had a flu shot in my life – never had the flu. Even when everyone in my house did. My secret? Eating healthy and building a strong immune system. I drink OJ or have a couple clementines every morning before school (Vitamin C), I take multi-vitamins daily, mostly for the Vitamin D. And if I even BEGIN to feel the TINIEST bit off, I put my trust in Airborne. Take one of those, next day I feel great again.
    I do NOT use hand sanitizer – my personal belief is that if you don’t allow yourself to come in contact with germs, your body won’t learn how to defend against them. Not saying that things people do as precautions aren’t ok, they certainly are – just don’t go crazy avoiding every germ. When you’re older, you’ll want that strong immune system so start building it up now.

    • Sue Ambrioso

      I use airborne in oj when coming back from vacations. And I believe in the building up immune system. I don’t avoid germs and usually only get one cold a year. Usually when the weather changes from warm to cold the first time.

  • Joshua

    We should make hand-washing a habit. Sometimes when our mind is too pre-occupied we tend to forget about hand-washing. http://www.maxicarehomehealth.com/care-services.html

  • DES

    I have to wipe down tables and spray daily as my room is in constant use when I am not there for meetings, afterschool programs, etc. Surgical gloves….wear them
    daily.Sounds extreme…but it saves my hands. Flu shots are a must.

  • Sarah

    NEVER drink from the school water fountain. EVER. For real. It’s NASTY. Take a cup and fill it at the sink. When you wipe your tables, wipe door knobs, cabinet handles, and sink handles too. Do this at home too! Wipe off your nasty cell phone too.

  • I was an Art teacher for 10 years, but now I teach elementary Technology. I have to be in much closer proximity to students every day than I ever did as an Art teacher—and touching keyboards all day long that sick kids have touched (and sneezed on and coughed on) to boot. I’m just getting over my first cold of the year. I count myself lucky to have made it half way through the year with just one cold. I wash my hands a LOT; can’t do it as often as I’d like though since the 5 mins I have between classes doesn’t always allow time for hand washing. But I do try super hard to not touch my face if I haven’t washed my hands.

    One thing I’ll note is that many people confuse the “stomach flu” with the real Flu, aka Influenza. They’re two different things. The real Flu is what they give immunizations for, and that flu seldom (if ever) causes nausea/vomiting, like the “stomach flu” does. The real Flu is fever, muscle aches, congestion, coughing, lethargy, etc. I hear people every year talk about getting the Flu shot and then getting irked because they were vomiting with “the flu”—and literally that was their only symptom (though of course stomach bugs can cause diarrhea as well). Obviously they didn’t have the real Flu. I wish more people understood the difference between these two illnesses, because getting a Flu shot won’t prevent a “stomach flu.” I’ll also just add that I’ve never had a Flu Shot, and I’ve never had Influenza.

    Here’s wishing everyone a healthy start to the new year!