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Published: Monday, 2/9/2009

Michigan woman's invention offers hands-free hygiene

FLINT (MICH.) JOURNAL
Retired nurse anesthetist Michele Strocel models the CoughCover on her shoulder. CoughCover is a pad that sniffly people can affix to their shirts and cough or sneeze into. Retired nurse anesthetist Michele Strocel models the CoughCover on her shoulder. CoughCover is a pad that sniffly people can affix to their shirts and cough or sneeze into.
RYAN GARZA / AP Enlarge

FLINT, Mich. - Eww. Gross. Yuck.

You know, it's what you think when your son or daughter uses a sleeve to wipe a 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 actually could prevent others from getting sick.

Ms. Strocel of 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 from your mouth when you cough.

It's called the CoughCover.

Ms. Strocel, 62, said the disposable, five-layered pieces of a special fabric are about 3.5 inches by 5 inches and can help prevent spreading cold and flu viruses. The CoughCover can be used hands-free and for long periods of time, the product's Web site says.

One of the layers of the CoughCover contains antiviral ingredients that are proven to kill cold and flu viruses, Ms. Strocel said. 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," she said.

With its patent pending, the CoughCover soon will make its public debut at Flint Township's Genesee Valley Center. Ms. Strocel expects by mid-February to set up a mall kiosk to offer samples of the CoughCover and to take orders.

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.

With more than two years devoted to the product, she thinks it could be used first with children and perhaps in settings such as day-care 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.

Ms. Strocel said she could see companies leaving CoughCovers at the front desk or near the time clock for people to use.

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," Dr. 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.

Ms. Selig, who saw a sample of Ms. 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," Ms. Selig said.

Ms. Selig said that she could see the product working well in a day-care, 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," Ms. Selig said.

Prices for the CoughCover haven't been set, but might run about $5 for a package of 10, Ms. Strocel said.



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