Family Flublog

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

What should I teach my family?

You already know about how to avoid bird or avian flu. But you also know that avian flu is not the biggest threat facing us. That would be pandemic flu, not here yet but odds getting better. (Did you read that now some cats have been infected with bird flu?)

So I think it's time we started teaching our families some new habits that will keep them from both SPREADING and GETTING all types of flu.

The key is your fingers: your own personal fly feet. They can bring you the flu as well as share it with others. So we need to practice using our hands in a new way.


You spread the flu by coughing and sneezing. We all know that: we drill into our kids to cover their coughs with their hands to avoid it. We do that ourselves as a reflex we've all been taught. But if you've ever watched a four-year old cover a cough, you can see that all it does is contaminate the hand in front of her mouth as well as the air she's coughing into, without blocking anything,

Even if you are a careful cough coverer, that just postpones infecting someone. Because now the hands that covered the cough are on the loose. And your hands are as big a problem as the droplets you just coughed into the air. Just think of all the neat new places they can touch before you get around to washing them.

Some experts say that hands only carry the virus for five minutes, but even if true, that's a long time to not touch anything. Maybe the only time you wouldn't touch something in that period of time is if you're asleep.

The pandemic flu virus of 1918 that killed millions of people could live on a doorknob for 2 days!

Okay, so what do we do?

Of course, cough or sneeze into a tissue and then throw it away, not back in your purse or pocket.

And here's the new trick: if you don't have time to find a tissue? USE YOUR ELBOW to smother your cough or sneeze. Obviously, your inner elbow cannot get into near the mischief afterwards that your fingers can, and that's the point.

Some schools are already teaching their students this habit, which is wonderful. Teach it at home as well. If your very young child carries a stuffed toy around, perhaps you could teach the child to cough into the toy instead of the air.

More on how to keep from getting the flu tomorrow.