Many practise a polite ‘cough into the hand’ custom, or more recently the ‘cough or sneeze into the crook of an arm’, even respectfully using a tissue when the need arises. | Archives


One of the easiest places on earth to catch germs, be it the flu, a common cold, or any other airborne virus, is in a doctor’s or hospital waiting room. It stands to reason I suppose, that the general public in these said environs, especially at this time of the year, have gathered, not for the joy of a day’s outing, but because they are obviously unwell and seeking treatment – hence the current re-introduction of obligatory mask wearing across all medical centres including dentists. Yet sadly, even in the wake of a recent pandemic, there are still those who stubbornly refuse to comply and adhere to the defense of mask wearing as it simply doesn’t appeal (diddums!), even when they are harbouring a real beauty of a snorting, spluttering cold, and breeze into these protected environments, unmasked, and sneezing everywhere without a care or thought for anyone else, claiming they didn’t realise! Or don’t care! And mostly, nobody says anything!

But, putting mask wearing differences and conspiracy theories aside (so the trolls can calm down now) I was brought up and taught at a very early age to politely cover both mouth and nose discreetly whenever coughing or sneezing around people in public. Many practise a polite ‘cough into the hand’ custom, or more recently the ‘cough or sneeze into the crook of an arm’, even respectfully using a tissue when the need arises. Yet it still appears to be a common practice across the island, and worldwide to just ‘bark’ loudly into the air, or cough rudely in your face if you unfortunately happen to be sitting or standing close by, with no attempt whatsoever to contain or aim said germs away.

I have noticed for a while, that some people cough very openly and quite generously without any consideration into the likelihood of spreading their germs, or worse still - a virus! And as locals tend to stand very close to you when talking, or waiting behind you in a queue, I have encountered, on many occasions, a sudden cough in the face or the back of the neck. I have also been showered by spray from violent sneezes because the perpetrators couldn’t be bothered to cover their mouths, noses or apply good manners and simply turn away. It’s not a very endearing habit, is it? Deliberately spraying people with your ailment, whatever it is!

Mediterranean friends and even slight acquaintances also tend to greet with a big, close-up hug, which is nice, yet only ever tell you they have a stinking cold once they have slobbered a germ ridden kiss across both virgin cheeks. It seems there is no escape!

Drippy nose syndrome, although not practised by everyone, sadly seems to be another common habit amongst the tissue-shy. The number of people I see wiping their noses with fingertips is appalling. It has been well documented that the quickest way of spreading germs and ‘whatever else’ is by hand, after capturing a drippy sneeze, then touching everything in sight. Coughing and sneezing directly at people is 100% guaranteed to pass on germs, so why do it? Just turn away, cover your mouth, use a tissue or wear a mask to protect others! Is it that difficult to comprehend?

I must admit, I have now become slightly paranoid with people all around me coughing and sneezing freely into the air, on public transport, in shops, at train stations, supermarkets, cafes, bars and even minding my own business on crowded pavements. There seems to be no escape from strangers coughing directly at me! No wonder epidemics flare up so easily if people don’t take sensible and responsible precautions by simply controlling their coughs and sneezes. It’s not rocket science!

It is also widely noticed that people who prepare and serve food in bars, cafes etc, also handle money and God knows what else - another great way of spreading the snot to the masses. No wonder the island is notoriously and continuously troubled with ‘resfriados’ during the winter season. Why give germs such an easy ride when with a little consideration the problem could improve drastically. Spread happiness not disease, keep your cough to yourself, and carry extra strength tissues instead of spraying germs directly into the air! And please . . . if you’ve knowingly got a cold, keep your distance from others and DEFINITELY stop leaning over pushchairs and kissing young babies!!!

I recently witnessed an animated grandmother in charge of three young children seated inside a café. She was adept at keeping them amused, but she was also coughing and sneezing all over them into the bargain, showering them with a tsunami of spray - a definite recipe for guaranteed cross infection! Play nicely, not with ignorance, and think of others around you who don’t really want to share your debilitating ‘malaise’. It’s always nice to share . . . but hello, there are limits!