Sneeze Police

     Print Edition: March 17, 2013

The idea of covering your nose when you sneeze originated during the days of the Black Death. Back then, it was thought you would lose your soul through a sneeze. The belief was that cupped hands prevented your soul from escaping your body; and would save your life.

Modern science has taught us that what covering your nose really does is it prevents others around you from catching your cold. And yet, we've noticed how one sick employee can quickly turn into a minor office epidemic. There's a very good reason for that. The old 'cupped hands method' is simply not as effective as everyone previously believed it was.

For one, cupped hands simply do not block all of the -there is no polite way to say this -spray. A recent episode of Mythbusters on the Discovery Channel demonstrated that it was actually the least effective of three widely used methods to cover up.

Two, even if you do immediately go to wash your hands after a sneeze, there is a high possibility residual that bacteria has be transferred to surfaces such as taps or bathroom doors before you can even clean them.

Handkerchiefs blocked most of the spray, but by virtue of being in your pocket all day, did not prevent the later spread of germs.

The new method being taught to children in schools around the world is the 'elbow sneeze'. Not only is it the most effective of the three methods at blocking off the 'spray', it also keeps germs localised to a part of the body that doesn't come in contact with surfaces while you try to clean up.

The obvious drawback with this method is the stain it can leave on your suit. Ideally you would avoid this by staying at home when you're ill and not putting your colleagues in sick bay. But you're the road warrior. So keep disposable tissues handy and avoid those Armanis when you catch the flu. Oh, and before we forget, an "excuse me" after a sneeze, is a welcome touch.

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