Each year at the same time, I make the ceremonious phone call to my physician, as well as the girls’ pediatrician to schedule our annual appointments for the flu shot. The moment I make the announcement my youngest starts to freak out!  She would rather eat lima beans than get the flu vaccination, or any shot, for that matter.  Thankfully, all the lead up to the shot winds up being much worse than the shot itself.  We all manage to escape without any signs of flu-like symptoms and our only reminder is a little soreness in the arm, or in their case, the tushy.
I have no clue if the flu vaccine really works or is just a placebo to pacify our nerves.  Last year, my girls and my husband all had fevers and their share of the stomach flu more than once.  Somehow I miraculously dodged it, which is crazy, especially since I was the one cleaning up after everyone!  Maybe mothers have some special “get out of flu” free pass because if we go down, the family will not be able to function without us!  Who knows?
What I do know is, I am not a fan of the flu or colds and will try to stay as far away from them as possible.  Frankly, I just don’t have the time to get sick!  I know there can be something cozy, and even romantic, about it. After all, it does offer us an opportunity to slow down, to stay in our pajamas all day, drink hot soup and curl up in bed with a good book, but after a day or two I get major cabin fever.  Personally, I would much rather wear garlic around my neck and avoid the whole mess altogether!  Side note – garlic actually has powerful anti-viral, antibiotic and anti-fungal properties that help boost the immune system. 
So when cold and flu season rolls around (usually around the beginning of October), I try to do my share as a responsible parent and respectful citizen to make sure that a few rules are in place to help minimize the spread of germs while maintaining my good manners.  Here are my top tips for properly handling oneself and preventing the proliferation of infection.
Symptoms & Signs. You’ve seen the commercials, the close-ups on someone coughing, sniffling or sneezing. We know when we begin to feel that tickle in our throats, the heaviness in our eyes or a queasy belly that something most definitely is awry. Most of the time, we ignore it and do our best to carry on and sometimes we are knocked completely off our feet and forced to lay low.  The important thing is to recognize our own bodies and know when we should stay home as opposed to going out and infecting others.  This is a sign of respect and others will thank us for it. 
Washing Hands. This is the number one rule to protect us against the spread of germs and infection.  Washing hands is also part of a proper hygiene routine.  Adults and children alike must remember to wash their hands with soap and warm water to protect themselves and maintain good health.  A good rule of thumb is to wash hands after bathroom use, returning home at the end of the day, before eating a meal and after shaking hands with someone who may be sick.  Children should also get used to washing hands the moment they come home from school. 
Boosting Immunity.  Eating warm food on a cold day not only fuels the body, but feeds the soul.  Adding preventative ingredients such as garlic, ginger and spice into our diets not only helps with digestion, but also assists with staving off colds and flu.  When we are feeling under the weather, a bowl of warm oatmeal for breakfast and homemade chicken soup for lunch or dinner is best. Liquids are also important for hydration and flushing out germs.  Drinking a hot cup of chamomile or mint tea with honey or a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice may be just what the doctor ordered.   
Dressing Warm.  I absolutely love the cold weather and I am the first person to break out the coats come Fall.  Although Southern California is warm by comparison to other parts of the U.S., we still have a cold day or two and it is necessary to know how to dress appropriately for the weather.  The key areas to keep warm are the neck, head and feet.  No matter how cold you may be feeling, if you put a scarf around your neck or a hat on your head, you will be just fine.  As far as shoes go, I am a huge proponent of wearing cozy Uggs or similar slippers around the house in the winter time rather than bare feet.  It turns out that I may be on to something.  Apparently, there is a connection between the walls of our nose and cold feet that actually breaks down our defenses.  If we protect our feet and keep them warm, we’re actually helping to fight off potential infection.  
Shaking Hands.  As an etiquette instructor, handshaking is a must.  I can’t tell you how many people I have come across who refuse to shake my hand due to illness.  Would they refuse the President’s hand if he had a cold?  I think not! My feeling is if you’re too sick to shake my hand hello, then you shouldn’t be wandering out of the house in the first place.  It is plain rude!  To bother to go out and socialize and then refuse to properly greet others is awkward and insulting.  If you are too sick to shake hands, simply stay home!  If you are the recipient of a handshake and worried about the spread of germs, discretely head off to the restroom to give a good Silkwood wash with soap and water.
Covering your Mouth.  Believe it or not, sneezing and coughing without covering your mouth ranked as one of the highest manners offenses.  Adults should know better, but how many times have we yelled these words to our children just after they’ve let loose and showered us with their germs.  They are constantly forgetting to cover their mouths when they cough or they sneeze.  And where are the little hankies or boxes of Kleenex around when you need one?  At school, children are taught to sneeze into their elbow (a/k/a “the Dracula sneeze”) and at home they are asked to use a tissue. Either way, the proper way to capture a sneeze or cough is to turn your head towards your right shoulder away from others to avoid spreading germs directly, or, if you are lucky enough to have advance notice, carry tissues and use them when you feel a sneeze or cough coming on. Finally, if you see a fellow sufferer let out a sneeze with no tissue in sight, be polite and offer them a Kleenex, it might actually save you from getting sick.
Acting Responsibly. As adults we know there is never a good time to get sick.  With the pressures of everyday life and a society that expects you to be available 24/7, getting sick seems like a luxury not many of us can afford.  With children, however, we have no choice but to stop and alter our plans. It is inevitable that a child will come down with a cold or flu at the most inopportune time and as parents it is our job to act responsibly and keep our children home, especially with fever or a stomach virus.  It is wildly inappropriate to bring them to school or schedule a play date unless they have had a minimum of 24-48 hours symptom free.
Do you use your best manners when it comes to spreading germs?  Be honest, have you ever sent your child to school when they should have stayed home?  Share your stories with us. We’d love to hear from you!