H1N1 flu fears boost hand sanitizer, face mask sales

Teresa Edwards has Purell dispensers positioned all through her house in Overland Park. She makes her two young sons slather on the gel whenever they get home from school.

She would have made them wear the face masks she bought, if the things had fit properly. Now she’s shopping for child-size versions.

"I was and I still am freaked out by swine flu," Edwards said.

So are millions of other worried people.

They're buying up face masks and sanitizing hand gels, hoping to stave off the H1N1 flu virus.

Demand from consumers and health care providers is creating nationwide shortages of these products and raising concerns that people may be putting too much faith in some flu countermeasures.

The Food and Drug Administration recently warned consumers to use extreme care when buying any products online that claim to prevent or treat swine flu.

"I think a lot of people want to feel like they're doing something to protect their family and themselves. It may give them a false sense of security," said Shawn Mueller, infection prevention and control manager at University of Kansas Hospital.

She recommends such basic measures as covering coughs and sneezes, washing hands frequently and staying home when you're ill.

Hand sanitizers are a good bet, Mueller said. They can kill flu viruses and make a good substitute for hand washing.

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