If you're one of those people who brag, come flu season, that you
"never, ever get sick," be aware: The odds may catch up to you. Every
year, about 5% to 20% of U.S. residents get influenza, according to estimates
from the CDC.
Taking certain antiviral drugs within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms can
shorten the duration of the flu, but that involves recognizing you have the
flu, getting in touch with your doctor, and going to the pharmacist before the
48 hours is up.
Just in case your...
Relax. Flu-Etiquette Man is here to help you avoid catching --
or spreading -- the flu.
Dear Flu-Etiquette Man,
It's too late to tell Uncle Jimmy to stay home. What can we
do to keep him from giving the flu to the whole family?
Signed, Harried Hostess
Hygiene, Harried Hostess, hygiene. Remember that flu is spread
by droplets given off by infected people as they cough, sneeze, or share
household items. You get the germs if you get these droplets in your nose,
mouth, or eyes. That can happen if Uncle Jimmy is rude enough to cough right at
you. But flu mostly spreads by hand when people touch droplet-contaminated
surfaces and then touch their eyes, nose, or mouth.
Hand washing is the most powerful way to prevent spreading
these germs. Alcohol-based hand disinfectants work great, too. It would be a
very good idea to give a small bottle of this to Uncle Jimmy. He should use it
whenever he's put a tissue to his nose or mouth.
Make sure Uncle Jimmy has an unending supply of tissues. He
must, of course, use them to cover his mouth when he coughs -- even if it seems
to be only a dry cough. And make sure he disposes of the tissues in a plastic
bag not kept near personal hygiene items or foods.
If Uncle Jimmy feels well enough to come to the table, please
make sure that he does not share eating utensils. If you're passing dishes at
the table, it might be best to make Uncle Jimmy his own plate, so he never has
to pass the potatoes.
Do you have unvaccinated people in your household who are at
high risk of flu complications -- children younger than 24 months, adults over
65, or people with chronic diseases or severe asthma? If these people have had
a close encounter with Uncle Jimmy, they may want to see a doctor about flu
drugs. These drugs can prevent the flu if taken soon after exposure.