FENTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. – Eww. Gross. Yuck.
You know it's what you think when your son or daughter uses a sleeve to wipe that runny nose.
Retired nurse anesthetist Michele Strocel may have the answer if your little one refuses or can't use a tissue to blow his or her nose. And it's one that could actually prevent others from getting sick.
Strocel of Genesee County's Fenton Township, about 45 miles northwest of Detroit, has worked for more than two years on a personal respiratory hygiene product that can stick to your shirt sleeve or shoulder to capture those yuckies from your nose when you sneeze and mouth when you cough.
It's called the CoughCover.
Strocel, 62, said the disposable, five-layered pieces of a special fabric are about 3.5 inches by 5 inches in size and can help prevent spreading cold and flu viruses.
Why not just use a tissue?
The CoughCover can be used hands-free and for long periods of time, the product's Web site says.
Strocel said one of the layers of the CoughCover contains antiviral ingredients that are proven to kill cold and flu viruses. There's also a stay-dry liner like that of a diaper, while another layer absorbs moisture.
"Instead of just coughing onto your clothes, let's make this a little bit more efficient, that will actually kill the bugs that are in the cough," Strocel said.
With its patent pending, the CoughCover soon will make its public debut at Flint Township's Genesee Valley Center. Strocel expects by mid-February to set up a mall kiosk to offer samples of the CoughCover and to take orders.
Strocel, who has a 30-year background in health care, said she hopes to use the Genesee Valley experience as a test market. Using that feedback, she said she hopes to determine long-term manufacturing, marketing and sales plans for the product.
With more than two years devoted into the product, Strocel is hopeful that it will take off. She thinks that it could be used first with children and perhaps in settings such as daycare centers.
"Once the product gets to be known and gets out there in the public, I think the biggest consumer is going to be employers," she said.
Strocel said she could see companies leaving CoughCovers at the front desk or near the time clock for people to use.
"If someone has a cold they come in, they get their CoughCover and use it throughout the day," she said. "That's going to be beneficial to the employer. That's going to be cost-effective to the employer."
In general, coughing into your clothing instead of into your hands is the better choice to help prevent the spread of viruses, said Dr. Gary Johnson, medical director of the Genesee County Health Department.
On its Web site, http://www.gchd.us, the health department has a link to a video showing how to properly cough and sneeze and information on good hand washing techniques.
"It's almost negating things when you wash your hands and you sneeze into both hands and then you touch something after like a doorknob or a phone and someone else picks it up," Johnson said.
But sneezing into your sleeve isn't too sanitary either, said Suzanne Selig, director of the Department of Health Sciences and Administration at the University of Michigan-Flint.
Selig, who saw a sample of Strocel's product last year at a county Health Department conference, said the CoughCover has potential.
"It's very likely that it will cut down on the transmission of airborne diseases," Selig said.
Selig said that she could see the product work well in a daycare, nursing home, preschool or even a jail where people are in close quarters and where airborne illnesses can spread quickly.
"She's come up with this really cool, inexpensive, portable easy-to-use, low tech, basic public health intervention," Selig said.
Prices for the CoughCover haven't been set, but might run about $5 for a package of 10, Strocel said.
Strocel said she first had an idea for a sick child daycare when her grandkids ended up at her house when they were sick and couldn't be in daycare.
But when research for that idea led her to the point of lobbying expenses, the idea morphed into the CoughCover as one way to perhaps help sick kids keep their cold germs to themselves.
Strocel said she has had help in the project, including from one of her sons-in-law, Dustin Wilt of Grand Blanc Township, and even from some of her five grandchildren, who have helped test the CoughCover.
"It just seems like such an inexpensive simple way to cut down on the transmission of cold and flu virus," Strocel said.