Mind Your (Cold & Flu) Manners

woman-blowing-noseIt’s almost that time of the year again – for flu shots, cough/cold medicine, extra boxes of tissue and vapor rub. And it’s no secret that many people catch their colds and flus from germs spread at work, home, school, even at the doctor’s office.

Is the spread of contagious illnesses inevitable? Not necessarily. By paying closer attention to the basic rules of etiquette when you’re coughing, sneezing, and showing other signs of a contagious cold, you can help control the spread of germs and help keep you and everyone else as much healthier.

1. Sneeze into your elbow, not your hand. As kids, most people were taught to cover their nose and mouth with their hands when they sneeze. But then where does that leave your germs? All over your hands, of course. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been campaigning to get kids (and adults too) to learn to sneeze into their elbows instead. “You can’t get to a sink immediately,” says Kathryn Teng, MD, a physician in the department of internal medicine and director of clinical integration of personalized health care at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. “And you touch so many things. It’s really a great way to contain germs.”

2. Wash or sanitize hands frequently. When it comes to washing your hands, “you really just can’t do it enough in the wintertime,” says Dr. Teng. Of course, you can get viruses, colds, and the flu any time of year. But “it’s more rampant in wintertime because we’re inside and in closer quarters.” So head to the sink, soap up, and scrub up after you sneeze, before you eat, and any other chance you get.

3. Warn others that you’re just getting over the flu. Let’s say you’re planning to travel and visit friends for the weekend, but you just getting over something pretty nasty. It’s just good manners and common courtesy to let them know that you’re sick before you show up to find out if it’s still okay to come over.