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Flu Etiquette

Proper etiquitte to avoid spreading germs that cause the flu.



An Atlanta kindergarten teacher admits to Flu-Etiquette Man that it's hard to get kids to use tissues. She says her class has learned to cover their mouths and noses with the crook of their arm when they cough or sneeze. It keeps droplets from getting airborne -- and it keeps germs off kids' hands.


Dear Flu-Etiquette Man,

I don't want to leave my office short handed. How may I safely come to work if I have the flu?

Signed, Worker Bee


Aaargh! Flu-Etiquette Man is very unhappy with you. If you are sick, stay home! You'll get better sooner. And your office will be better off if you don't insist on infecting your co-workers. If you don't believe Flu-Etiquette Man, listen to Julie Gerberding, MD, MPH, director of the CDC.


"There are things that employers can do this time of year," Gerberding said in a news conference. "One of them is to just help remind employees about the etiquette that we're talking about that helps people prevent the spread of respiratory diseases in the workplace. They should encourage people who are sick to stay home so that they don't serve as a source of transmission to others in the work environment."


Dear Flu-Etiquette Man,

Do I really have to wash my hands all that often?

Signed, Not OCD


Flu-Etiquette Man believes there is a difference between compulsive hand washing and good hygiene. But the bottom line is that you should wash or disinfect your hands whenever you've touched something that an infected person might recently have touched: Elevator buttons, door knobs, faucet handles, and so on.


This flu season, Flu-Etiquette Man has seen some very sorry hand-washing efforts in public rest rooms. It's just not good enough to splash some water on your hands, or to tell yourself it's probably OK to skip hand washing this hour.


Not to worry, though. Here is Flu-Etiquette Man's guide to hand washing:


  1. Run the water until it is warm.
  2. Get a paper towel and hold it under one arm.
  3. Put soap on your hands.
  4. Rub your hands and fingers while you sing the alphabet song to yourself. Keep rubbing until you finish the lines, "Now I know my ABCs/Aren't you very proud of me?" Yes, Flu-Etiquette Man is proud of you. But you aren't finished yet.
  5. Rinse your hands thoroughly. Soap doesn't kill all the germs on your hands. But it does let them slide off under warm water.
  6. Take the paper towel out from under your arm and use it to turn off the water. If necessary, use it to work the lever to get more paper towels.
  7. Dry your hands. Don't throw the towel away yet -- use it to open the door as you leave the bathroom.

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