Flying to great-aunt Erma's house for Thanksgiving? Or taking a leisurely
wintertime cruise along the shores of the Mexican Riviera? Boost your chances
of healthy travel by taking a few preventive steps. That way, you'll cut your
risk of catching cold and flu from other plane passengers. And you won't be
confined to your cabin on the cruise ship, battling a nasty case of
gastroenteritis while other passengers are off enjoying the
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.
Of course, it would have been best if Uncle Jimmy had stayed
home with the flu. You could have arranged with a local restaurant or food
store to send him some fragrant chicken soup. But symptoms can strike suddenly,
so maybe it's only misfortune that he's your guest just as his flu bug bit.
Dear Flu-Etiquette Man,
Kids being kids, how can I help them avoid other kids' flu
Signed, Paranoid Parent
Flu-Etiquette Man spoke with pediatrician Corinne Taylor, MD,
of Emory University and Emory Children's Center, Atlanta.
"I make my child recite the three rules every day before
preschool: I will use Kleenex, I will wash my hands, and I will stay away from
anybody with snot," Taylor tells WebMD. "Keep small children away from
crowds -- and this year it is difficult, but try to keep it down to small
groups. And try to stay the heck away from people who have the flu."