Our children are being taught to cover their nose and mouth when they cough or sneeze. Good.
In my youth, we used our hands. Today’s kiddies are being taught the dreaded Vampire Sneezemaneuver. They cross an arm over their nose and mouth and sneeze – or cough – into their elbow. This, somehow, is supposed to be a superior method for reducing the spread of airborne bugs – colds, the flu, and any number of bad guys.
I think something is wrong – very wrong – with that technique.
Let’s examine the mechanics of the new Vampire Method (VM) vs. the old In-The-Hand Method (ITHM).
Using the VM, the cougher reduces the flow of his/her mucous and water droplets (the stuff that contains bazillions of bad bugs). Sure, some of it squirts out above and below the bent elbow, but the vast majority is probably forced onto and in the fabric of whatever garments are there.
The old ITHM, the sneezing person trapped his/her gunk in their cupped hand – and hopefully wiped with a paper towel, a tissue, or even a handkerchief. Some of the slime certainly remained on the hand where it could be transferred to someone else during a simple handshake. No, none of this is pleasant and not appropriate for polite table talk. Still, the points are important. At least think about this.
Now we have two people post-sneeze; the ITHM and the VM. As a routine precautionary measure, we are all told to wash our hands. There are even signs in public washrooms that tell us to do so. Teachers instruct their students and good parents instruct their offspring to have clean hands. This is particularly important if we plan to move our hands anywhere near our face. Dirty fingers rubbed into eyes can easily transfer dirty bugs to the sensitive tissues in the watery areas of the eye. The bugs can also enter our system if we stick our fingers in our ears.
Yes, we’re not supposed to put anything smaller than an elbow in the ear, but we all know the facts of life here. If your ear itches – inside – you’ll probably scratch it. Right? Then of course we eat things – often touching the food with our hands, which should be clean because we wash them before eating.
Now what about the folks who engage the modern VM? They let fly into an elbow – one that is usually covered in some kind of clothing. They do it once, twice, a dozen times a day. Do they ever stop to cleanse and disinfect that elbow area? Of course not. It gets dirty the first time. The warmth and moisture allow the bad buggers to thrive and even multiply. Repeated sneezes or coughs only ADD TO the yucky population in the crook of our sleeve. The cougher probably does a good job infecting both elbows with gobs of infectious material. It stays there all day – maybe several days. Whole colonies can take up residence on our sleeves – content in waiting until the first time our coughing friends hug someone.
Here’s another concern about employing the VM. What happens when a sneezer puts on a coat over the infected sleeve(s)? Yup, the bad buggers can be transferred to the inside of the coat’s sleeves. They can then be transferred back to a clean shirt or sweater and then back to the mouth and nose of the person when he/she sneezes the next time. And we wonder why our cold (flu?) linger. We just keep contaminating ourselves with our own set of bad bugs – the ones we transfer to the warmth of the inside of a dark sleeve.
Mother knew best. Cover your nose and mouth with your hand when you sneeze or cough. Then, wash your hands before you touch anyone else, your food, or your face.
If you have to, use one of those dumb alcohol gels. They are better than nothing. Not good, mind you, just better.
The modern Vampire Method is stupid, and we should stop teaching it to our children before they become part of a mob of bug infested shirt sleeved individuals.