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Flu Etiquette

Proper etiquitte to avoid spreading germs that cause the flu.


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.

Dear Flu-Etiquette Man,

If flu is spread by contaminated hands, is there a polite way to avoid shaking hands?

Signed, Running-for-President

During flu season, Flu-Etiquette Man says it's impolite to shake hands. If a person offers you his or her hand, resist the temptation to grab it. Tell them politely that as it is flu season, you want to protect them from anything you may have touched. Never suggest to another person that it is they whose contagion you fear, even if it is true.

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