Donya Currie is the editor of The Free Lance-Star's Healthy Life section and Healthy Life Virginia newsletter.

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Should you shake hands during flu season?

If you’re like most people during flu and cold season, you try to keep your distance from people who are sniffling, coughing or just recovering a nasty stomach virus.

But what happens if you’re in a business meeting and someone extends a hand? What if you’re at church and a parishioner comes in for a hug? Is it rude to avoid friendly contact in the interest of keeping yourself well?

I came across a lively story about this in The Dallas Morning News recently, and you can read it here. A few takeaway messages from this story and from everything else I’ve read or been told by health experts about preventing the spread of germs:

  • Wash your hands before touching your face. People touch their faces multiple times an hour, studies show. Shake a dirty hand, rub your eye and presto, you’ve upped your odds of getting sick.
  • Consider greeting people in different ways — give a fist bump, or bow and say ‘namaste.’
  • Disinfect doorknobs and other things that frequently get touched. If you’ve ever worked in a preschool or nursery, you’re probably well aware of the need to do this.
  • Try to create a workplace environment where people who get sick are encouraged to stay home, not bring their germs to the office. A general rule of thumb for employees and students is to stay home until you’ve been fever-free and vomit-free for at least 24 hours. You can read more about this here.
  • Cough and sneeze into your elbow or a tissue, not into your hands. You don’t want droplets landing on your hands, and you don’t want to spew them into the air, either. Those droplets can land on people and objects up to 6 feet away, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say.
  • Keep hand sanitizer handy if dashing off to a sink to wash your hands isn’t convenient.