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Flu Etiquette

Proper etiquitte to avoid spreading germs that cause the flu.


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 germs?

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."

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."

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