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Flu Etiquette

Proper etiquitte to avoid spreading germs that cause the flu.



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.


If you already have perfected the Japanese bow, this may be a good time to practice it. If, however, you've adopted the French cheek-kissing greeting -- or the Russian smooch -- don't do it until spring. And while Flu-Etiquette Man is fond of the American Male Hug, it's also a good idea to put this on hold for the winter. As for hand kissing, well, there's a reason this has gone out of style.


Originally published Dec. 24, 2003.

Medically updated September 2006.


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