Grade Levels: K-3

This page contains information to support educators and families in teaching K-3 students about viruses, colds, and flu.  The information is designed to complement the BrainPOP Jr. movie Colds and Flu. It explains the type of content covered in the movie, provides ideas for how teachers and parents can develop related understandings, and suggests how other BrainPOP Jr. resources can be used to scaffold and extend student learning.

Most kids come down with a cold or the flu at some point during the year. This movie will teach about colds and the flu and identify some common symptoms. The movie will also explore ways to prevent the spread of the cold and influenza viruses through good hygiene practices.

Explain to children that a cold is an illness caused by a virus. Influenza, or the flu, is caused by a different family of viruses. A virus is an infectious agent that can replicate only inside living organisms. You may wish to watch BrainPOP’s movie on Viruses for an overview of how viruses work. Children should understand that the cold or flu virus gets into the body and spreads, and the body works to fight off the virus. Remind children that the parts of the body that find and kill germs and protect against illnesses make up the immune system. As the immune system does its job, the person might feel a little sick.

Review with children that a symptom is a change in the body caused by an illness. Invite children to explain how they feel when they have a cold. What changes do they see or feel in their bodies? Cold or flu symptoms include coughing, sneezing, or sore throats. People might feel congested and get a runny or stuffed-up nose. Their eyes might water and they may get mild headaches or muscle soreness. Sometimes people get the chills and feel cold, or they feel warm and get sweaty. Explain to children that a fever is a rise in temperature of the body that is actually helpful, not dangerous the way many people think. The body raises its temperature to help kill off the viruses. It’s a sign that the body’s immune system is hard at work. The symptoms of the flu and cold are similar, but flu symptoms tend to be more severe and may require a visit to the doctor.

What should you do when you have a cold or the flu? Have children brainstorm ideas. Emphasize that it’s important to get plenty of rest. The body needs to conserve its energy to fight off the virus. People should drink plenty of fluids to help replace water lost by the extra work the body does to combat the infection. Some people may lose their appetites when they catch a cold, but it’s important to eat and supply fuel for the body. Soup can soothe a sore throat, and warm baths or showers can help loosen up congested chests. Some people need medicine to help relieve symptoms temporarily. It is important for children to understand that they should always ask a trusted adult before taking medicine and follow directions carefully. Different medicines are taken in different ways. You may wish to share the Medicine movie for more information. Most people recover from colds after a few days or a week. If symptoms persist much longer or increase in severity, a doctor should be notified.

Many children might notice that when one person in class gets a cold, other students catch it. Explain that a cold or flu is contagious, which means it can spread from one person to another. However, people can prevent the spread of illnesses. Germs can spread in several ways. When someone sneezes, tiny water droplets containing germs float into the air and can be inhaled by anyone nearby. Thus, people should always cover their nose and mouth when they sneeze or cough. This prevents germs from spreading to others nearby. They should use a tissue or they can use the crook of their arms. They should avoid using their hands to cover their sneezes and coughs because germs can also spread by touch. This can increase the spread of illnesses if and when they touch something else. Likewise, children should use tissues to blow or wipe their noses, not their hands. Whether kids are sick or not, they should be sure to wash their hands with soap and warm water to kill germs. You may wish to screen the Washing Hands movie to review proper techniques.

Colds are the most contagious for a few days after the initial symptoms. If children feel sick, they should rest at home to prevent the cold from spreading to others. If they feel sick at school, they should tell the teacher immediately and visit the school nurse. Encourage children to practice healthy habits and promote good hygiene. Help them realize how their actions can affect the health of those around them.

Filed as:  Be Well, Colds and Flu, Health, K-3