My question is about sick etiquette and spreading illness.
A neighborly friend came for a drink recently sporting a full-blown cold. When we opened the door he announced, “No physical contact, because I’ve got a bad cold.” We bypassed the warm welcoming handshakes and hugs. He said he couldn’t stay long, but nonetheless lingered long enough to bestow his cold virus on the household with his sneezing and coughing. We lost time from work; our son missed an important basketball game.
Shouldn’t he have told us he had a bad cold before sharing his germs, to give us the option of postponing his visit until he was healthy?
–JP, Springfield, MA
What you call sick etiquette and the spreading of illness is all well and good, but be cautious about casting blame.
Until we have cash-cleaning ATM machines, you may have been just as likely to have caught that cold virus from the germiest things we touch every day, such as ATM machines and the paper bills they dispense.
The influenza virus is known to survive on paper money for ten days. You’re just as likely to catch a cold virus from the office water cooler as from sampling a party salsa and chip dip.
You could have picked your cold virus up anywhere as they are regularly found residing on the rails and armrests of a public bus, at your doctor’s office, a public restroom; as well as on gym equipment, door handles, the pantry counter at work, a computer keyboard, photocopy machine button, movie theatre seat, park bench, shopping cart, bank countertop, and anything in an airplane — especially the pocket attached to the seat in front you where passengers dispose of used tissues.
Then in your own home or in a hotel: your pillow, salt & pepper shaker, light switches, cellphones (The University of Arizona tested 25 cellphones and found staph growing on half of them.), toilet seat, bathtub, kitchen sink, kitchen sponge, fridge handle, shifter knob in your car, TV remote. Cold viruses are even found in men’s beards.
We can’t live in a bubble. You can encourage your son to wash his hands after being on the school bus when he comes home and before he has supper.
Use and be consistent with coughing and sneezing etiquette, by teaching him to cover his mouth and move away from anyone who is nearby, and then thoroughly washing his hands.
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