February 21st, 2014

Flu Etiquette: How to (Politely) Avoid Getting Sick

by Jacqueline Whitmore
Flu Etiquette Tips

Image credit: mcfarlandmo via Flickr

It’s that time of year again. Spring is around the corner, but there are still another four to six weeks of winter left – and the colds that come with it.

That means that you invariably will be faced with someone hacking, sneezing and wheezing in your personal space. But how do you politely tell someone, “Don’t stand so close to me?” Here are three simple tips:

1. Sitting next to someone on the plane who won’t cover their mouth as they cough.

Instead of trying to impart the basic rule of “cover your mouth when you cough,” it’s more productive to ask the flight attendant if you can move seats. To avoid offending your sick plane mate, you might want to say something like, “It sounds like you are really battling your cold. I hope you don’t mind but I’m going to ask to sit in another seat.” 

2. You are standing in line at the grocery store and the guy ahead of you is having a sneezing fit.

In this situation, simply move away. That’s really the only thing you can do. If you advise this person to use a tissue or cover his mouth, you run the risk of offending him. In this day and age it’s like telling someone they are being rude on their cell phone. Sometimes it’s best to avoid saying anything to avoid confrontation.

3. You can’t reschedule a meeting, presentation or conference during the height of your cold.

Even I’ve been in a situation where my own sniffling has prompted someone to give me a tissue. If you’re lucky, you work in an environment where your boss says, “You sound awful, take the afternoon off.” However, if you’re like me and work for yourself, you may have to tough it out since your commitments can’t be rescheduled, regardless of the number of tissue boxes you’ve gone through that day.

If you find yourself doped up on cold medicine at a big meeting, presentation or conference, be forthcoming about it (as if they couldn’t already tell). If you’re sick and can’t reschedule a speaking engagement, don’t shake hands or get too close to anyone. If someone tries to shake your hand, say, “I would love to shake your hand, but I’m getting over a cold.” People will thank you for not passing your germs along to them.

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