Santa wants children with symptoms of H1N1 to stay home until they’re feeling better and not climb onto his lap for pictures because it could put others at risk of contracting the virus.

“I think it’s important that people know that Santa’s been thinking about this,” says Steven Norman, Santa at Mississauga’s Dixie Outlet Mall.

Norman, 62, got his H1N1 flu shot and will be carrying an alcohol-based hand sanitizer in his pocket as he strolls the mall. His Santa station will be disinfected every hour, and he will gently ask children who appear ill with the flu to return another time.

Jennifer Andrews, who runs a school in Calgary that trains Santas for work around the world, says she has sent guidelines to hundreds of Santas on preventing transmission of H1N1.

“If the children are ill, we’re recommending that they come back and see him another time.”

She’s asking clients who hire Santas from her school to set up handwashing or hand-sanitizing stations along the red carpet to Santa’s chair. Santa’s elves can help children comply.

Henry Paquet, head of the Santa Claus Association of Quebec, urges Santas to minimize physical contact. That means no kisses and no sick kids on Santa’s lap.

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