Here comes flu season, and keeping your co-workers' germs away involves more than a quick squirt of hand sanitizer.  There's an art to killing viruses, and it requires more patience than we've had so far.

Microbes need wet mucus to grow and spread.  Gross, but true.

And when scientists look at flu viruses under a microscope, those things are attached to wet mucus, and a quick dab of hand sanitizer does nothing to convince them to wither and die.  Even when the hand sanitizer is left on hands for two minutes, the microbes hang on.  How in the world do we kill them?

Well, it's a matter of leaving the hand sanitizer on and letting it dry for four minutes before we touch anything else.  Four minutes!  And maybe working in some more sanitizer while we're waiting.  Four minutes is a really long time when we need to sit back down at our desks and start typing right away, but we'll have to resist the urge if we want to stay healthy.  And we'll have to disinfect our smartphones too.  Nothing is more germy.

When it comes to germs in general, apparently, we just don't have enough patience.  We're not leaving the hand sanitizer on long enough, and we're not washing our hands long enough either.  Most people are done washing hands in 11 seconds, and to kill germs, it takes about thirty seconds.  So in a public restroom, we need to stand there and scrub for so long that it's almost to the point of embarrassing, and that will be just about right.

Here's the thing.  If the mucus on our hands is dry then hand sanitizer works well, according to the experts.  It's the wet mucus that protects the germs, so if the kids sneeze on us and we squirt some hand sanitizer right away expecting to squash the risk, it doesn't work that way.  Waiting for the remnants of the sneeze to dry will be a better approach because the germs have no wet mucus to protect themselves at that point.

Oh, flu season, you're such a pain in the butt.  And most often the stomach and throat.  But the good thing is, there are bottles of hand sanitizer on just about every desk, at every gym, and in every grocery store checkout line in Billings.  Just wait for the goo to dry before you squirt it, and then leave it on for a really long time before you touch anything else.  A little more patience might make for a much healthier fall.

Now, if only we can get the rest of the family on board with the plan.