Don't Forget to Cover Your Mouth
June 15th 2009 06:23
It is impolite, even rude, not to cover your mouth when you yawn but it is really amazing the amount of people who don’t even bother. If you are yawning, a mouth wide open looks pretty awful – almost like one of those clowns in a side show at a fair – and it’s just simple bad manners.
A few months ago there was a blog I stumbled upon where the moderator repeated something he had heard on the radio. It was that people over 30 coughed into their hand but people under 30 coughed into their arm.
It generated a lot of conversation, many saying they coughed into their elbows, some into their forearms and a few mentioned their wrists. So I could only conclude that it must be a generational thing because I was never taught to do that.
Another one I read where a guy had said he always coughed or sneezed into his shirt and this disgusted his wife. He thought it was much better than coughing or sneezing into his hand. The responses were mixed, some saying it was gross and others thinking it really was quite OK.
When researching for this post I found a Centres for Disease Control website and checked out their advice. Obviously, the most important factor behind their advice is to prevent the spread of germs and disease rather than what’s rude and what’s not.
In fact, the main message was that coughing, sneezing and unclean hands spread serious respiratory illnesses like influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), whooping cough, and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
What to do when you cough or sneeze? This website advises to cover your mouth AND nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and if you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve NOT your hands. Hands should be washed either with soap and water or an alcohol based product afterwards.
On a site written by two doctors, Dr Dave and Dr Dee, advice they give to readers about coughing and sneezing when it comes to etiquette and hygiene is pretty similar. They do mention the traditional etiquette of turning away from people when you are about to cough or sneeze. Like the Centre for Disease Control they also suggest that if a tissue isn’t available to cough or sneeze into the elbow or upper sleeve!
So there you have it. You should always cover your mouth when you are yawning, coughing or sneezing, no question. For the sake of public health, it is much better to cough or sneeze into an elbow or an upper sleeve than into a bare hand. The blogger I mentioned earlier wasn’t so gross after all.
Have you got any better tips?
Image of women sneezing - credit www.guardian.co.uk
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