Etiquette for swine flu sneezes

Kansas City StarSeptember 24, 2009 

You're about to sneeze. Quick! What should you do?

The conventional wisdom seems to be that you raise your upper arm to cover your nose and mouth, a maneuver also known as the "Dracula sneeze." (Note to Count Dracula: Time to send that cape to the cleaners.)

But here's the problem. Coughing or sneezing into your sleeve seems, well, kinda nasty.

And there is this: Last week, after Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius chided a reporter for sneezing into his hand at a news conference, conservative talker Rush Limbaugh pooh-poohed the practice.

"Elitist snobs advising us to sneeze on our arms," Limbaugh called Sebelius and her ilk, who apparently want us all to become "hick hayseeds." You know, like the Beverly Hillbillies and Gomer Pyle.

Limbaugh may have been joking — and we must point out that sneezing into your shirt is different from wiping your nose with it. It’s true, though, that Sebelius and public health officials advocate the Dracula sneeze.

This week, ahchoo etiquette became an issue at a Kansas City Council committee meeting. Councilman Russ Johnson on Wednesday leaned away from his colleagues and sneezed into the air — without covering his nose or mouth. Councilwoman Sharon Sanders Brooks, sitting next to him, scowled and shifted away, pantomiming that he should cover his sneezes with his elbow.

Most schoolkids have already been indoctrinated. For many adults, it’s a matter of reteaching themselves.

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