Sneezing etiquette is not new to us and, in fact, has its roots in the various superstitious beliefs about what happens when someone sneezes, which include a favorable omen to a sign of demon possession. To ward off any negative effects, the typical response to a sneeze became “Bless you!” or something similar depending on your language or culture.
Though medically we know that sneezing is a biological response to an irritated nose, many of us during the pandemic have re-learned how important it is to protect ourselves and others from possible “dangerous emissions.” A single sneeze releases approximately 40,000 respiratory droplets, which can linger in the air and on surfaces.
Mask-wearing has brought about a level of comfort regarding those dangerous emissions.
Mask-wearing comes with its own set of social norms of time, place, and circumstance and with virus variants continuing to threaten our health and well-being, it seems they may be a part of daily life for a while.
These considerations prompted one reader to ask, “If you are wearing a mask and need to sneeze, should you be sneezing into your mask or is it okay to take it off and sneeze into the elbow area?” She noted that sneezing inside a mask feels very yucky and you can feel the sneeze come out over the top of the mask. It would also feel yucky to sneeze into her elbow when wearing sleeveless blouses during warm seasons.
The search for healthy and recognizably polite habits continues! Having to sneeze while wearing a mask is uncomfortable, but there are workarounds to keep sneezing etiquette intact.
We share our world with the other people in it. Etiquette guidelines help us to do this in a relatively painless manner. Sneezing etiquette is no different, because when it comes to spreading germs and viruses, it’s not just about us. It’s about everyone in our vicinity.
As we learn what to do when sneezing, it may also be helpful to remember the “never-dos.”
A most etiquette-ful question any person can ask is, “What can I choose to do to help everyone here feel safe and protected?” And remember, if you are sick, please stay at home!