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H1N1 Swine Flu Holiday Party Etiquette

How to keep an unwelcome guest -- swine flu -- out of your holiday party.
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Holiday season is upon us again. As you send out the invitations and plan the menu for your holiday party, remember that there is one guest you definitely do not want on your guest list: swine flu.

You might have considered canceling your holiday festivities out of fear of H1N1. However, our flu etiquette experts say that if you're still going about your regular business -- going to work, movies, and religious services -- there is no reason to cancel your holiday plans.

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"It's not as though the Christmas party is the only group activity we indulge in, so we have to put it into context," says William Schaffner, MD, chairman of the department of preventive medicine at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and member of the board of directors of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. "If your community is in the throes of a huge outbreak right at that time, I suppose that would give you some pause. But I think by and large, folks are going to Christmas and New Years' parties."

A little bit of healthful planning and some simple swine flu etiquette can help keep unwelcome germs out of your holiday celebration.

Planning Your Flu-Free Party

An ounce of prevention is always best. Both hosts and their guests should usher in the season by getting vaccinated against both the H1N1 and seasonal flu viruses, if they haven't done so already.

Also remember to always practice good hygiene. Cover your mouth and nose whenever you sneeze or cough, and wash your hands often with warm water and soap.

Let your friends and family members know that you'd prefer they not come to your party if they are ill. However, you must be diplomatic. A dash of humor can smooth over a potentially awkward request. On your invitation, consider adding a line such as, "Healthy guests only, please RSVP to:" or "Swine flu? We'll send you a doggie bag," suggests Anna Post, etiquette expert with the Emily Post Institute and author of Do I Have to Wear White? "It's all in the delivery," she says.

Saying Good-bye Graciously to an Unwelcome Guest

Some guests may not heed your warnings, and will arrive at your doorstep dressed in their finest flu germs. As host, it is your responsibility to steer them back home, but do so in a manner that shows you are only concerned about their well-being.

You might say something like, "Sarah, I would only say this to a friend, but you look awful and you really need to go home," Post says. Send your friend home with a box of tissues and a mug of hot tea, and promise to check in on her later. "They might be a little offended at first, but hopefully, they'll understand."

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