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."
If you're one of those people who brag, come flu season, that you
"never, ever get sick," be aware: The odds may catch up to you. Every
year, about 5% to 20% of U.S. residents get influenza, according to estimates
from the CDC.
Taking certain antiviral drugs within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms can
shorten the duration of the flu, but that involves recognizing you have the
flu, getting in touch with your doctor, and going to the pharmacist before the
48 hours is up.
Just in case your...
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
How important is this flu prevention tip? It depends
on your perspective. Sometimes a little sickness can be healthy in the long
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
SOURCES: Robert Schwartz, MD, chairman of family medicine, University of
Miami School of Medicine. Rachel Orscheln, MD, infectious disease specialist
and pediatrician, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis. Erica
Brownfield, MD, professor of internal medicine, Emory University School of
Medicine, Atlanta. CDC: "Stopping the Spread of Germs at Home Work &
School" and "Good Health Habits for Preventing Flu."