An icky fact: That elevator button or door knob you just touched? It likely
germs on it. If you're avoiding the flu, take note. Then wash those hands. Do
it the right way -- and do it often, several times a day!
It's true -- germs can live on any surface for two hours or more. If someone
in your office or school is infected, those germs can reside on anything
they've touched -- desks, phones, coffee pots, microwaves, cafeteria tables,
You can take all the precautions in the world, but sometimes the flu sneaks around your defenses. So what do you do when someone in your house has the flu -- or even swine flu?
To give you an idea, here's a countdown of five average days with the flu. Keep in mind that this rundown is based on a typical case of seasonal flu. There's still a lot we don't know about swine flu. But so far, its symptoms seem to be pretty similar to those of common seasonal flu viruses.
prevention experts advise you to wash your hands, they don't mean a light
drizzle of water. As mama always said, use soap and warm water -- and rub hands
for 15 to 20 seconds. Sing the 'Happy Birthday' song twice while rubbing, to
keep track of the time.
vaccine is the best way to prevent flu, but the next best thing is good
hand hygiene," says Rachel Orscheln, MD, an infectious disease specialist and
pediatrician at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. "Cover
your mouth and nose with a tissue. Then wash your hands every time you cough or sneeze to prevent spreading the virus."
One flu prevention strategy: Keep gel sanitizers close at hand. If a sink
isn't nearby, a gel sanitizer or an alcohol-based hand wipe is easy to grab to
clean dirty hands. The gel doesn't need water to work; just rub hands until the
gel is dry. Most supermarkets and drugstores carry these wipes and gels.
Making It Work at the Office: Grab a Paper Towel
At the office, the paper towel is a very good friend -- a great way to avoid
flu germs. "Use a paper towel to open a door, turn a faucet, use a towel
dispenser," advises James Mamary, MD, a pulmonologist with Temple Lung Center
at Temple University Health System in Philadelphia. "You can even use a paper
towel or cloth to touch elevator buttons." Gloves would work.
Luckily, many workplace sinks now have automatic on and off faucets, Mamary
notes. "But I always use a paper towel in a public bathroom. You wash your
hands, then you touch a doorknob where other people are not washing hands. It
makes sense to use a paper towel."
Making It Work at School: Sing in the Restroom
Has your child sung her favorite song today? Suggest singing every time the
kids wash their hands. "Kids must learn that any time you use the restroom
there are germs," says Orscheln. "It's very important to wash hands with soap
and water after using the toilet. It's important to wash real good using soap
and water. Like toothbrushes that have songs in them, singing helps when
Are kids sneezing at school? A big dispenser of gel hand cleanser should be
in clear view -- on the teacher's desk or some other place. "It's not always
easy for kids to get to the washroom during class," Orscheln tells WebMD. "If a
child coughs or sneezes, they must be sure to clean their hands right
SOURCES: Rachel Orscheln, MD, an infectious disease specialist and
pediatrician at Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis. James
Mamary, MD, a pulmonologist with Temple Lung Center at Temple University Health
System, Philadelphia. CDC: "Stopping the Spread of Germs at Home, Work, &
School" and "Good Health Habits for Preventing the Flu."