Skip to content

    Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Prevent Flu: Don’t Be Touchy

    Keep your hands off your face to keep the flu virus at bay.
    By
    WebMD Feature
    Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

    Resist the urge. Little habits -- touching eyes, putting finger to nose, biting nails -- give the flu virus a welcome mat into your system. A day or two later, when the first signs of flu hit you, you'll wonder -- how did I get the flu? When avoiding the flu, you've got to resist those habits.

    "These are bad habits for many people," says Robert Schwartz, MD, chairman of family medicine at the University of Miami School of Medicine. "But they are the main way a virus gets into your system, via the oral and respiratory nasal route."

    Recommended Related to Cold & Flu

    Covering Up Cold and Flu Symptoms: Beauty Tips

    Your nose is red and runny; your eyes are puffy and so bloodshot they look like modern art. On top of everything else, a cold sore is threatening to blossom on your upper lip. There's no denying it, you've got a whopper of a cold -- or maybe even the flu. But you've also got a commitment you just can't break. Whether it's an important work project, that PTA dinner you're hosting, or the birthday party for your best friend, you’ve got to show up and you've got to look good -- no matter how bad your...

    Read the Covering Up Cold and Flu Symptoms: Beauty Tips article > >

    Making It Work: Nose-Picking Kids and Sticky Notes

    Breaking your kids -- and yourself -- of these habits isn't easy, Schwartz notes. "It comes down to personal motivation. People who bring hands to face a lot put themselves more at risk of infection."

    If you need reminders, a few tips: Sticky notes on your computer can help. Tape a note to your coffee mug, too. Put notes on your bathroom mirror at home, on the car dashboard, on the kitchen cabinets, the fridge, closet, purse, briefcase. Note to self: PREVENT FLU.

    "You can remind kids not to touch their eyes, nose, or mouth -- which is hard because kids like to pick their noses," says Rachel Orscheln, MD, an infectious disease specialist and pediatrician at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

    To make the message effective, you can't just say it out of context, Orscheln notes. "They have to remember that now is cold and flu season, and eyes and nose are how germs get into the body. Remind them, too, that they need to wash hands often."

    How important is this flu prevention tip? It depends on your perspective. Sometimes a little sickness can be healthy in the long run.

    Erica Brownfield, MD, a professor of internal medicine at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, says that exposure to germs is actually good for kids. "I'm not as paranoid about germs as some people. I let my kids touch and eat and do whatever they want to do. I think it builds up the immune system."

    Reviewed on October 01, 2010

    Today on WebMD

    hot toddy
    15 tips to help you feel better.
    man sneezing into elbow
    Do echinacea and vitamin C really help a cold?
     
    teen girl coughing
    Get a good night’s rest with these remedies.
    elder berry
    Eat these to fight colds, flu, and more.
     
    Natural Cold Flu Remedies Slideshow
    Slideshow
    cold weather
    VIDEO
     
    Allergy And Sinus Symptom Evaluator
    Article
    Boy holding ear
    Slideshow
     
    woman receiving vaccine shot
    Article
    woman with fever
    Article
     
    Waking up from sleep
    Article
    woman with sore throat
    Slideshow