Q. Karen, I am not usually reluctant to shake hands with people, but get that way during flu season. Is it a terrible faux pas to refuse someone's handshake during this time of the year?
A. Anytime you refuse to shake someone's hand you risk offending them. However, I do appreciate the concern for getting sick during the peak of flu season. That being said, there are some things you can do to lessen the chance of getting sick that will still allow you to shake hands and not offend others.
Keep small packets of hand sanitizer in your pocket or purse during your day. This is a good way to clean your hands after you have been in a crowd or any place in public. Be sure not to clean your hands in front of someone you just met since he or she could take offense.
Wash your hands thoroughly after meeting and greeting a lot of people. Take extra care in washing before eating. Regular hand washing can do wonders for reducing the transfer of those pesky flu bugs.
If you are the sick one, let that be known when greeting people as to why you refuse to shake their hand. A simple, “excuse me for not shaking hands, I have a terrible cold” will suffice. The people you encounter will appreciate your consideration of them.
Keep your distance. If you are the sick one keep your distance from people. No hugging.
Cough and sneeze into the bend in your arm or into a tissue, not in your hands. This will keep your hands a little more germ free.
Sanitize your desk, computer, keys and phone regularly. Keeping the things we touch cleaned throughout the day is a big help.
Throw away used tissues after using them once. Don't leave them laying around for others to pick up and throw away. Especially, don't leave them on tables in restaurants for the wait staff to pick up. They don't want your germs either.
Keep a box of tissues and hand sanitizer on your desk at work.
Others can use them if they feel an emergency sneeze or cough coming on.
Have some illness guidelines for employees. Encourage them to stay home if they are acutely ill or have a fever. This may be a savings in the end since it can reduce the spread of illness throughout an organization.
Lastly, if you're sick, stay home.