Sicker Than A Dog

If you’ve ever had someone offer you a handshake with the same hand they just coughed into, you know where I’m going with this.

Good manners matter most, practically speaking, when we feel like practicing them the least—that is, when we’re sick as dogs. Believe it or not, there are established niceties for sneezing sweetly, coughing considerately, and conversating without contaminating.

We recently had some kind of alien chest crud spread through my employees like wildfire. Hardly anyone was spared. When I realized it had finally got the better of me, my alarm clock had just gone off at 1:30 am because I was scheduled to leave for the airport at 3:30 am to fly to Anaheim, California. After a sneezing fit and the tickle in my throat turning into a dry cough and my head about to split open, I thought, “I’m not that sick. I can take some aspirin and still get on that plane.” But then I pictured myself attending my scheduled back-to-back meetings with magazine advertisers at the Natural Products Expo Show. And I mustn’t forget the vow I made as I flew to Chicago sandwiched in between two large fellas who coughed and wheezed and sneezed the entire time.

I picked up the phone to cancel everything. First, Delta Airlines. Next, the hotel. Because I wasn’t cancelling with a 24-hour notice, I told the hotel clerk, “I woke up sick. It’s a chest thing that my employees have all had.” He said, “Oh, yeah, that passed through our staff. Headache and a dry cough?” I said, “Yes, that’s it exactly.” He said, “Two weeks. All of us were wiped out for two weeks. Go back to bed. No charge.”

If you’re in the first hours of a bacterial or viral infection, you’re super contagious, especially if you have a fever. If you’re coughing and sneezing severely enough to interrupt others around you, don’t go to work (in fact, you’d be guilty of presenteeism if you did). If it’s impossible to avoid people altogether and crawl back into bed, take precautions to avoid infecting others. This includes members of your family. Cover both your mouth and nose with a tissue or a fresh hankie when coughing or sneezing. In elementary schools, they teach children to “cough into their beaks” (the inside corner of their elbow). Wash your hands constantly, and disinfect any shared surfaces, like a phone, after you’ve used them. Here’s the non-toxic disinfectant I use for travel and home.

How do you practice good manners when you’re sick or coming down with something? And when you’re exposed to sickies at the workplace or in social situations, what tips do you have for avoiding their sniffles?

  1. Susie Dally says:

    I was a receptionist at a Dr’s office-the pen available at the counter was wiped constantly with a disinfectant wipe-and my pen never left my desk-no one touched it but me!To this day, during cold and flu season-I never accept a pen from anyone-store clerks, reservation desks, the postman-I always have a small pen in the pocket of my coat or pocketbook.

  2. Cassilynn Brown says:

    I’m a nurse who works in a hospital and I know from experience sick people are miserable and cranky! Most patient’s are grateful for the care they receive and make sure you know how much they appreciate what you are doing for them. Then there is the occasional person who is just miserable to take care of. These are the ones who cannot be pleased or feels so bad, they want to share the pain. They cough in your face as you are leaning over to assess them, they throw snot rags all over the room, and they act like they were never taught manners. What they don’t think about is how their behavior puts everyone else in the hospital at risk. When someone coughs on me, they are coughing on my other patients, their family members, my family members, and my co-workers, and on and on…

    Side note – I’ve always taught my daughter to cough into the bend of her arm. Recently, she came back from a visit with her father and his wife. Her step-mom couldn’t understand why I taught her this. She told my daughter, “Well, you don’t open the door with your elbow do you? Wash your hands!” I just shook my head.

  3. Debra Brown says:

    I have had the flu and it has been bad. I would not even go to work. But I am afraid someone will catch what I’ve had in my work place. I never really get sick. This must be the year I get it. Just now a fellow empolyer just walked in couching. Just great.

  4. Ruth Hower says:

    My 96 year old mother resides in a nursing home. She’s confined to a reclining wheelchair and her bed. She can’t feed herself, but is able to use her hands enough to hold and fuss over a doll. Last winter she came down with the flu, as did most of the residents and some staff. It was upsetting to me since I know Mom didn’t go anywhere to catch it – it was brought to her. One of my pet peeves while visiting her 3 and 4 times a week is to see the aides touching doorknobs, wheelchair handles, and tray tables with the gloves they’ve just used while assisting someone in the bathroom. Besides flu spreading like wildfire, there have also been bouts of intestinal flu. I shudder to think what could happen if MRSA germs take hold. I wish besides hand-washing reminders there would also be cautions to health workers to remember that rubber gloves also carry germs!

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