Gouger watch AARP has set up a toll-free line for consumers to register complaints about vaccine providers who let the profit motive get the better of them. In announcing the service, available at 877-FLU-COST (877-358-2678) from 7 a.m. to midnight Monday through Friday, AARP board member Byron Thames noted that even though providers have been urged not to use short supplies as an excuse to hike prices, "there has already been evidence of price gouging." Prices over $30, excluding doctor visit fees, may be excessive, AARP says. Complaints will be passed on to federal and state authorities.

Wash those toys With infants and toddlers among those at higher risk for complications from influenza, Columbia University professor and hygiene expert Elaine Larson offers this tip: "Encourage daycare providers to have toys that are washable or that can be wiped down, because if you have a shared toy basket . . . and the toys are all stuffed animals that haven't been washed for a year . . . that's a real dandy way to spread [viruses] around."

Shopper's little helper Another product being pitched to combat the flu and other seasonal nasties: the "lightweight, disposable Clean Shopper" from Babe Ease, LLC. It's a one-piece cotton-quilted grocery-cart liner -- with a safety strap -- designed to protect babies from germ-ridden surfaces.

Another reason to stay home? In the typical office, the area where you rest your hand on the desk has 10 million bacteria, according to a 2001 University of Arizona study, and the typical desktop has far more bacteria than the toilet. The flu virus can settle on workplace surfaces in similar ways and survive for up to 72 hours, says Roslyn Stone, CEO of Corporate Wellness Inc. and chairwoman of the CDC's Working Group on Workplace Flu Prevention. The solution: Cleanse your work area with disinfectant wipes daily.

-- Gregory Mott