Newport Manners & Etiquette: Sick Etiquette

Wednesday, January 18, 2017


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Heading into the worst season for spreading viruses, whether it is simply a cold virus or an agony that is more complex, questions to Didi Lorillard at NewportManners this month focused on sick etiquette. 

Spreading sickness

Q. A neighborly friend came for a drink recently sporting a full-blown cold. When we opened the door he announced, "No physical contact, because I've got a bad cold." We bypassed the warm welcoming handshakes and hugs. He said he couldn't stay long, but nonetheless lingered long enough to bestow his cold virus on the household with his sneezing and coughing. We lost time from work; our son missed an important basketball game. Shouldn't he have told us he had a bad cold before sharing his germs, to give us the option of postponing his visit until he was healthy?  JP, Springfield, MA

A. Until we have cash-cleaning ATM machines, you may have been just as likely to have caught that cold virus from the germiest things we touch every day, such as ATM machines and the paper bills they dispense. The influenza virus is known to survive on paper money for ten days. You're just as likely to catch a cold virus from the office water cooler as from sampling a party salsa and chip dip. You could have picked your cold virus up anywhere as they are regularly found residing on the rails and armrests of a public bus, at your doctor's office, a public restroom; as well as on gym equipment, door handles, the pantry counter at work, a computer keyboard, photocopy machine button, movie theatre seat, park bench, shopping cart, bank countertop, and anything in an airplane - especially the pocket attached to the seat in front you where passengers dispose of used tissues. 

Then in your own home or in a hotel: your pillow, salt & pepper shaker, light switches, cell phones (The University of Arizona tested 25 cell phones and found staph growing on half of them.), toilet seat, bathtub, kitchen sink, kitchen sponge, fridge handle, shifter knob in your car, TV remote. Cold viruses are even found in men's beards.

We can't live in a bubble. You can encourage your son to wash his hands after being on the school bus when he comes home and before he has supper. Use and be consistent with coughing and sneezing etiquette, by teaching him to cover his mouth and move away from anyone who is nearby, and then thoroughly washing his hands.

Sick etiquette

Q. Do I have the responsibility to tell my friends that I have genital herpes? Name Withheld

A.  Before you share information about your intimate agony, figure out exactly what you are going to say to avoid confusion and misinformation. Herpes simplex consists of two types; HSV-1 mainly appears on the face, mouth, eye, and throat and moves slowly into the central nervous system. Most noticeably eye-catching, is the angry cold sore on the lip. HSV-2 causes anogenital infections, which many people who are affected are not aware of the fact that they are infected.

As I do not have a medical background, I cannot give you more detailed advice; aside from advising you to get tested, if you haven't done so already. You can find out about testing anonymously from resources online. Nonetheless, my best advice if you are herpetic, is to talk to your doctor about what to say and what you don't have to say.

Sickling in the office

Q. The guy in next cubicle is driving me nuts with his cold. He is always loudly coughing, sneezing, blowing his nose and clearing his throat. I seriously think if he stayed home for a couple of days he would get better faster. It is going on a week and he doesn't sound any better. What do I do? I'm sure by now everyone in the office will catch his cold.  Name Withheld

A.  Before complaining to your manager, ask your coworker if you can get him a cup of hot tea. Say you're worried that he isn't getting better and you think he should go home. If he gives you the brushoff, that is the time to talk to personnel.  

Sick of asking for a raise

Q. For the second year in a row, I practically begged my boss for a raise and instead I got a promotion without the raise. How do I get compensated for the additional work when it is not reflected in my paycheck?  CC, Providence

A.  Politely demand feedback from your boss. It will help him or her identify your value to the company and you can learn how to be more beneficial yourself. A person who can handle feedback well is someone who grows quickly and learns from their oversights and missteps. The key is to not let your emotions hold you back.

Didi Lorillard researches manner and etiquette and NewportManners.


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