You might be 'fluphobic' if ...

Oct 23, 2009 By Mary Schmich

The moment it became clear that I was on the verge of a full-blown case of the disease, I was gazing at an ATM keypad.

Was it the relentless media coverage of H1N1? Was it those TV commercials that make look like hairy rodents?

Whatever the provocation, with my fingers poised over the money machine, I had a thought: Maybe I should enter my PIN with my elbow.

In that instant, I realized I was coming down with something more widespread than the -- fluphobia.

Fluphobia is sweeping the nation and inspiring innovative germ-fighting strategies. It has turned the elbow into the most versatile body part since the thumb, though in the case of the ATM, I settled for a knuckle.

The fluphobic person is aware of germ-fighting basics: Wash your hands frequently and well. Cover your sneeze and cough, preferably with your arm, not your hand. Keep your hands away from your face.

But that's not enough for the fluphobe. He or she is an inventor, a contortionist, cleverly deploying the knuckle, the knee, the foot, the hip and the elbow in ways that would impress Cirque du Soleil.

"I always use a sleeve or bottom of a shirt to open restroom doors, ALWAYS foot flush," reported Cheryl Tolcher when I quizzed people on about their fluphobic practices. "Push doors are pushed with elbows, side or hip. I sneeze down my shirt."

The line is fine between fluphobia and intelligent caution. The above practices could be signs of either one. So could the following:

You steer the grocery cart with your forearms, not your hands.

You carry your own pen to sign credit card receipts.

You push through revolving doors with an elbow, a forearm or a fist covered in a sleeve you've learned to grasp from the inside.

You press elevator buttons with an elbow, a knuckle or a pen tip.

You open the "L" door with your elbow and grip the bus strap only if you're wearing gloves.

You stock up on Clorox wipes and use them on your roommates' or work-mates' stuff, too, whether or not they want it.

"I now carry waterless liquid cleaner in my purse," wrote Annette Wehrli, "and I have been wiping down everything from doorknobs to car handles to drawer pulls much more often."

A couple of fluphobes in my Facebook survey reported holding their breath.

"I hold my breath when someone sneezes in the elevator and get off at the next stop even if it's not mine!" wrote one.

If hand sanitizer is a fluphobe's best friend, paper towels are a close second, especially when exiting a public bathroom.

"Although by using those you identify yourself as crazy," wrote a Facebook friend.

I recently saw a guy at the gym wrap paper towels around the free weights. Napkins also do extra germ-fighting duty.

"At a reception, brunch or other gathering where there's a salad bar or buffet," wrote Beverly Loder, "I keep a napkin in my hand to pick up the serving utensils."

Some fluphobic strategies invite argument. Foot flushing? Isn't that rude to the people who flush with their hands? Holding your breath? The bigger worry is the germs that land on you.

I believe in a cautious though not fearful approach to germs. And yet sometimes bad germs happen to people with the best of knuckles, elbows and intentions. I have the cold to prove it.

(c) 2009, Chicago Tribune.
Visit the Chicago Tribune on the Internet at
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Explore further: Oil-swishing craze: Snake oil or all-purpose remedy?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Sleeves may be key to safe sneezing

Nov 10, 2007

Ailing individuals who do not want to spread their infections should sneeze into their sleeves rather than their hands, a British virus expert recommends.

Primates expect others to act rationally

Sep 06, 2007

When trying to understand someone's intentions, non-human primates expect others to act rationally by performing the most appropriate action allowed by the environment, according to a new study by researchers at Harvard University.

CDC advice for those with flulike symptoms

May 01, 2009

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is offering advice to people wondering what to do if a family member takes ill with flulike symptoms. Some of the more important points:

Recommended for you

Suddenly health insurance is not for sale

Apr 18, 2014

(HealthDay)— Darlene Tucker, an independent insurance broker in Scotts Hill, Tenn., says health insurers in her area aren't selling policies year-round anymore.

Study: Half of jailed NYC youths have brain injury (Update)

Apr 18, 2014

About half of all 16- to 18-year-olds coming into New York City's jails say they had a traumatic brain injury before being incarcerated, most caused by assaults, according to a new study that's the latest in a growing body ...

Autonomy and relationships among 'good life' goals

Apr 18, 2014

Young adults with Down syndrome have a strong desire to be self-sufficient by living independently and having a job, according to a study into the meaning of wellbeing among young people affected by the disorder.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Study says we're over the hill at 24

(Medical Xpress)—It's a hard pill to swallow, but if you're over 24 years of age you've already reached your peak in terms of your cognitive motor performance, according to a new Simon Fraser University study.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.