As the coldest season of the year takes hold, we can rest assure that many of us will fall ill with a cold or flu. How do you prevent spreading your germs in social settings when you are feeling under the weather? I sat down for a Q&A session with etiquette extraordinaire Tina Hayes to get some answers.
With the winter season under way, what should individuals do if they are sick and have to travel by plane (i.e. college students returning home, family traveling for holidays)?
If you have a common cold, pack over-the-counter medicines in your carry-on. Try to treat the symptoms before you leave home and again before boarding the plane. Important: Drink lots of fluids. Once you board the plane, try to sit near the restrooms and let your seatmates know you are feeling ill. Advise them that you will take precautions to not spread your germs.
Don’t touch others’ drinks/snacks in passing. Make sure you turn away from others and have plenty of tissue to use for sneezing and coughing. Before exiting the plane, wipe down your area with a disinfectant if possible. Most importantly, if you have a fever or chills, try to reschedule your flight; you have to think about yourself and others.
If you are eating and someone comes to greet you, what is the proper way to address the person?
If I’m eating I would politely decline shaking hands. You can use abbreviated greetings, such as a head nod, hand wave, or smile. Another option is to shake their hands and then excuse yourself to wash your hands in the restroom afterward.
In your opinion, what is the most polite and sanitary greeting, a hug or a handshake?
It’s a known fact that the proper greeting in America is a handshake, regardless if the individual feels it is sanitary or not. I also feel it is the proper thing to do. Hugging could be more sanitary depending on the way it is done, but it is not the standard greeting in our country.
I've noticed that when I say I am sick it makes people want to avoid me. While attending a networking/social event, should you alert people you are feeling under the weather before greeting them?
Yes. Don’t walk around sharing it with everyone. You can decline the handshake and say, “excuse me for not shaking, I’m a little under the weather, however, it is nice to meet you.” In this situation, you can also use an abbreviated greeting as I mentioned before. Also, make sure you wash your hands often.
Hayes emphasized that when you are sick, it is important to think about others. Here are some general tips that she shared in a previous article on proper hygiene in public places:
- Wash your hands with soap and water after coughing or sneezing. Soap and water is the best way to prevent spreading germs. If soap and water are unavailable, use a hand
- Put your tissue in a wastebasket immediately after use. Do not store it in your pocket or purse, this spreads the germs.
- Don’t spit on the ground. Instead, use tissue or go to the
- Be cautious about putting anything on the restroom floor, such as handbags, cellular phones and other small electronics. Items placed on the floor can easily pick up germs.
Taking these important steps and being conscious and considerate of those around you is the best way to help stop the spread of germs on a daily basis. And by doing so, you are doing your part to keep yourself and others healthy.