Illness manners primer for adults

Last night I was in a meeting seated next to a grown person who was nearly visibly ejecting microbes into the air around her. She had a deep wet cough, coughed into her HANDS and sometimes just into the air, and emitted the strong stench of strep with each cough. I was crunched down in my chair way on the other side, wincing with each hand-cough by the end of the meeting.

After the meeting I asked her if she had a sore throat, and she said she did ("I have some sinus drip"). I said, "you smell like strep; you should see a doctor." She looked confused for a few seconds and then said, "Oh, you're so funny! I love the things you say! 'You smell like strep.' Ha ha ha. Well, I hope you don't catch it."

Then I was REALLY irritated. "I probably will, given that you have been sitting here coughing strep everywhere including into the hands you just shook everyone else's hands with." I stopped there, but I was ticked. I get that you can't stay home all the time when you're sick, but you could not TRY to make everyone around you sick and then laugh about it. It isn't funny.

So, people, stop coughing into your hands. It may be polite, but it doesn't do anything for infection control. Cough into your elbow (unless you plan to rub elbows with a lot of people, and in that case use your judgment), cough into a tissue and throw it away, whatever. For God's sake, don't just cough and let your droplet-infested plague loose in the room.

Gah. This is obviously one of my peeves. I have enough chances to get sick being a nurse. I don't need people childishly spreading the joy otherwise!