What is the etiquette of sneezing?
Please write about sneeze etiquette.
-Asked in person
The one thing to remember when a sneeze is on its way is to cover one’s mouth and nose, everything else is just detail. Let me explain. First, to put it delicately, it stops the spraying. And secondly, it automatically stifles the sound. Even the loudest of sneezes would be slightly shushed when covered.
Gone are the times when everyone had a handkerchief with them. Actually, my friend Samuel, a real gentleman, still carries hankies, but I know I no longer do.
I remember my kindergarten days, we would get spot checks for handkerchiefs and the neatness of our nails. As I am writing this, I can recall a boy in my class, Vincent, who always had two hankies, ‘one for him and another in case a lady should need it.’ I never saw him again. I wish we were still friends, because he is a boy after my own heart.
In the absence of handkerchiefs, facial tissues are an appropriate substitute. They are easy enough to carry in one’s pocket or purse without the added inconvenience of laundry. Do offer an ‘excuse me’ when the sneezing fit is over, and you should be greeted with a chorus of ‘bless you’s’.
If you do end up sneezing into your hands, do wash your hands instantly or use a hand sanitiser. (I shan’t get into a discussion on resistant pathogens caused by excessive sterilisation.) Another friend, Will, told me he sneezes onto the crook of his arm, never into his hand (see photo). That way, he is less likely to spread germs. Now Audrey Hepburn from the film My Fair Lady comes to mind. She was taught that a handkerchief is to wipe any part of one’s face that feels moist; and one must not confuse it with one’s sleeves. But in the absence of a hanky, I would opt for the sleeve.
I do feel I have written quite a thorough response to this Dear EtiKate query. I would like to dedicate this post to Samuel, Vincent and Will, who I imagine, never have an awkward sneezing moment.
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