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Even though we are experiencing a mild autumn here in Springfield, Va., the cold and flu season is knocking at our door like it does every year. Turn on the TV, pick up a newspaper or simply glance at Yahoo! News, and you can almost feel the aches and fever.

Some articles direly predict this year’s death toll from the flu and describe the misery its victims will endure on their final days. Others offer handy tips on which preventive measures can help you make it through the winter flu-free.

If you are looking for scary stories about people getting sick, pick up a copy of “The Stand” by Stephen King. But if you’re in the mood for a comical look at health advice, you’ve come to the right place.

First, get a flu shot. It’s an easy thing to do and the only way to prevent people from making snide remarks if you come down with the flu.

It isn’t so much the question that is irritating as the way your friends, coworkers and family will ask it: Didn’t you get a flu shot this season? (Like we did, you idiot?)

The next suggestion is another no-brainer, but can have consequences for your skin. Wash your hands throughout the day, scrubbing them together under the water like you are about to perform surgery. If you are not within reach of a sink, carry around hand sanitizer.

Following the above advice means my hands will feel like leather by the time you are reading this column. Soap and hot water dries them out, and that alcohol-based hand sanitizer is even worse.

I keep tubes of hand lotion in my bathrooms, by the kitchen sink and in my car, but ultimately surrender to dry skin every winter in my personal fight against germs.

If you can feel the flu coming on, head to your nearest pharmacy right away. The super-strong cold medicine that vanished from the shelves of your commissary and local Wal-Mart a couple of years ago is still available without a prescription. You just have to go to the pharmacist and ask for it.

After you show her three forms of I.D., pose for a mug shot and have your fingerprints taken, you will be allowed to make your purchase.

The most ridiculous advice I’ve encountered thus far said not to cover your coughs unless you have a Kleenex on hand. We are all supposed to sneeze over our shoulders in the event there is no tissue available.

I’m sure the people around me will appreciate it when I just let my sneezes fly all over the place. I can understand how sneezing in my hands will spread germs, but isn’t there some other place I can point my mouth when it’s about to blow?

How about downward at the floor, or into my shoe?

Another lame piece of advice was to eat lots of low-fat yogurt to keep your body healthy and able to fight off diseases. Come on — don’t health articles always recommend eating low fat yogurt, no matter what the problem is? Can’t “the experts” tell us to eat something good for a change?

I recommend everyone stock up on some high-fat chocolate just so we’ll all be in better spirits when the days grow colder and shorter.

Ben and Jerry’s ice cream is the perfect medicine for a sore throat. Even the lumpy flavors can be therapeutic.

Save the low-fat yogurt for bikini season, not flu season.

A mother of three boys, Pam Zich has moved eight times in 17 years of marriage to her Marine Corps husband. They have been stationed in various locations, including Okinawa, California, Texas and their current home in Springfield, Va. E-mail her at homefront@stripes.osd.mil or find the Zichs online at www.lifeonthehomefront.com.

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