WASH YOUR HANDS---OFTEN: At a minimum, suds up before preparing food or eating it, after using th bathroom, and after sneezing or coughing inro your hands. Wash for a full 20 seconds---about as long as it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" twice.

TAKE GOOD CARE OF YOURSELF: Get enough sleep, drink plenty of water, eat fruits and vegetables, and exercise regularly. And don't smoke: It weakens the body's natural defenses.

AVOID TOUCHING YOUR NOSE AND EYES; Most people do more than 20 times a day, but these are the spots where viruses and other germs usually enter the body.

COVER UP CUTS WITH A BANDAGE: Dab on a little antibacterial ointment (Polysporin, Bacitracin) while you're at it, or use a Curad Silver Antibacterial bandage, which has antibiotic ointment built in. This will help protect and heal an open wound, another place where germs can gather.

KEEP UP-TO-DATE WITH IMMUNIZATIONS: Against hepatatis B, the measles, polio, and diptheria. And have the flu shot each fall. "You've got to get it every year because the flu virus changes from year to year," says H.Markel, M.D.

AVOID ANTIBACTERIAL CLEANING PRODUCTS: And avoid taking antibiotic drugs unless unless you have a serious bacterial infection, such as pneumonia.

CARRY ALCOHOL-BASED HAND SANITIZERS: (like Purell) in your purse. They work faster than soap and kill bacteria more efficientl, without encouraging antibacterial-resistant germ strains.

DRINK TEA: Green tea is known for bolstering the immune system. White tea (a lightly processed form of tea) has been shown ro have an even more poerful effect: It not only protects against viruses and bacteria but may also kill them inside the body.

KEEP PETS HEALTHY: Cats and dogs can carry germs that are easily transmitted to hhumans. Make sure your pets' immunizations are up-to-date and that the animals are groome regularly. Wash your hands after touching pets.