A friendly fall flu reminder - East Valley Tribune: Health

A friendly fall flu reminder

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Stacie Spring is a general assignment reporter for the East Valley Tribune. Contact her at (480) 898-5645 or sspring@evtrib.com

Posted: Tuesday, September 27, 2011 3:15 pm

Just a friendly reminder from your neighbor: Please cough or sneeze into your elbow, shoulder, or inside of your jacket.

It’s that time of year again. The kids are back in school. Fall officially began last week. Flu season is starting.

And with flu season comes the need for a refresher on why it’s important to keep your own bacteria and viruses to yourself.

Remember two years ago when Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius scolded a reporter during a press conference for sneezing into his hand? (If you don’t, visit http://evtnow.com/fluvideo to watch.)

Like many, I was taught by my parents to cough/sneeze into my hand so I wouldn’t on other people. But a little more recently, that’s been proven to help spread bacteria from you to everything you touch.

Think about everything you touch between hand washings; doorknobs, phones and light switches are just the tip of the iceberg.

In light of that, the Center for Disease Control recommends coughing and sneezing into the elbow. In fact, they’ve teamed up with Sesame Street (http://evtnow.com/sesamesneeze) to promote sneezing into your elbow to young children.

This might explain why my then-5-year-old cousin reminded our grandma to cough into her elbow last winter. She’s a smart girl — she probably listened to Elmo. And while I’m not nearly as memorable as Elmo, I hope I push a gentle reminder: Be conscious where you cough.

Just last week at a local coffee shop I noticed some not-so-sanitary behavior. If you’re a germaphobe, this may make you a little squeamish.

The woman in front of me in line clearly had a cold of some kind with a heavy chest cough and runny nose.

She coughed into her open hand, touched a parfait, coughed again, reached for another parfait then coughed directly on (no hand) the pre-made, wrapped sandwiches.

I stood in frozen in horror (or disgust) as she picked up four different parfaits, read the back of two sandwiches, reached for a CD and played with a stack of gift cards. About halfway through this, I realized I was staring (and counting).

I offer my apologies to the lady if she noticed my own arguably rude behavior; however, this story does serve a purpose.

We don’t know who touched the things we did five minutes, an hour, a day before us. And since we can’t control who touches what, it’s best to get a flu shot. This year’s flu shot is available and the CDC recommends everyone over the age of 6 months receive the vaccine every year.

Since I’ve already caught the cold that’s passing around the office despite my hand-washing, hand sanitizer application and cleaning with antibacterial wipes, I’m going to get my own shot later this week when I go to pick up a prescription. (Despite what some people may say, the CDC insists the vaccine won’t actually make you sick.)

So my recommendations? Get a flu shot. Sneeze into your elbow. Be conscious of where you cough. And the old standby: Wash your hands frequently.

I wish you and your family a happy, healthy, flu-free flu season.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-5645 or sspring@evtrib.com

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