In featured, Social Etiquette by treska roden

Winter time etiquette is upon us again and colds and flu are everywhere.  It can be very hard to avoid people who have the flu particularly if they insist on going to work or mix in society instead of staying at home in bed.  Here are a few helpful hints on what to do.

How can I stop a co-worker from spreading germs?
Twenty five per cent of Australians go to work when they’re sick, but 81 percent care if a co-worker arrives sick and would speak out, according to a survey. But what can you do? Say your co-worker won’t stop clearing her throat.  Tell her privately as she might not realise she’s doing it, or offer to help in a gentle way.  You could say something like ‘You’ve cleared you throat an awful lot—I hope everything is OK. Normally I wouldn’t mind, but I’m just about to make an important phone call. Can I make you some tea first?’

When flying
Thanks to close quarters and extremely low cabin humidity (which hinders your immune system), you’re much more likely to catch a cold on a plane than in day-to-day life.  If you’ve got a sniffly seatmate, grab a few extra tissues from the restroom and ask if it’s allergies or a cold.  If it’s the latter, she suggests asking the flight attendant about switching seats if the flight isn’t full. Also, use hand sanitizer frequently and avoid touching your mouth, nose, and eyes, which is a common way for cold germs to gain entry. 

Sharing food
If sick friends want to share food you can offer utensils to use instead of their hands or ask your waiter to split a meal between two plates.  Say, ‘I’m happy to share! But I’m being very careful about staying healthy this season. How about we split this dish on different plates?’.” Alternately, spoon a portion on your own plate before the dish spends too much time on the table.

I’m under the weather. Do I shake someone’s hand?
If you have a cold it is better not to offer your hand. It is more gracious to help someone stay healthy, rather than play along and just shake hands.  People will appreciate your honesty and that you’re thinking of their health, too, versus a handshake that could lead to illness.

What if I’m sick, and can’t reschedule an event?
Apologise to the hosts, but do not go.  Tell them you don’t want to risk that they or any of their guests get sick.  People are very grateful when you do that.  When you call, offer alternative plans to make it up to them once you’re better, and put a date in the calendar so they know you mean it when you say you want to celebrate, she adds.

What if I can’t stop coughing?
Keep cough drops, mints, water, or a travel mug of hot tea with you.   If you still can’t control the situation, quietly step out of the room until you can soothe your cough. Just say, Excuse me. Articulating much more will make your coughing fit worse, she adds. 

Do I confront a sick child’s parent?
When you drop your child or grandchild off at school and notice their best friend has a cold you become anxious.  However, etiquette says stay out of it. There’s not a whole lot you can do about it.  Parents get pretty upset when people criticise their children. Remember, children will always go to school sick. To deal with it, pack hand sanitizer in your child’s backpack.