I suppose most of you know this, but there is a right way to sneeze or cough, and a wrong way. I just found out yesterday that I've been doing it wrong most of my life. The good part is that I've got a cold and have had a chance to practice doing it properly. The bad news is that I'm finding that breaking a habit of over sixty years is hard!

I was giving a friend from church a ride to an appointment at the VA hospital in Martinez. She'd already had the same cold as me and I was past the point of being contagious but I still had an occasional cough since I was nearing the end of my morning DayQuil dose. Inside the VA waiting room, she pointed out that I shouldn't cover my mouth with my hands, but rather, with the crook of my arm.

I'd been using my hands (or at least one of them) for well over 60 years! But Arlinda has a background in nursing and seemed up on these things. More important, it simply made sense. Sneeze or cough into your hands, and your hands will soon have touched all kinds of other things. Things that still others will touch. Ewww, gross! But sneeze into the crook of your arm, and that's pretty much the end of it. 

If you know the expression "well duh moment", well this was a well duh moment. To put an exclamation point on it, there was a posting on one of the bulletin boards next to the check-in desk that showed the proper way to cover up.

I thanked Arlinda for pointing this out and vowed to change my ways. Easier said than done. She went in for her procedure and I wandered off to lunch. The Martinez VA had a really nice vegan, protein-rich salad, to which I added some cantaloupe chunks (I love those!) and I sat down with a Time Magazine dedicated to the science of happiness.

Occasionally, a cough would demand to be released, and I obliged. Up would come my hands. It was all ingrained after years of practice. Sometimes I'd catch myself in time, sometimes not. I think the "sometimes nots" won the day.

It was so frustrating! And so it's gone ever since, at least for the last couple of days. It's so difficult for the human mind to overcome a lifetime of what I always thought was a good habit.

The Physical Shin

Wrong All These Years

Last update: December 31, 2019

The John Shinnick Website

The proper way to cover up is shown on top. Germs go into your sleeve and that's pretty much the end. The bottom pic is the wrong way, which I suppose is why the "X" is displayed. But that's how I did it for over 60 years (except with one hand). BTW, handkerchiefs are best.)

I really think I can train myself to do this, but my cold is definitely in a state of retreat. Only one NyQuil last night and no DayQuil today, and it seems the cold is almost over. Now how can I practice my proper technique?

With any luck I won't have to deal with a cold for several months, and when I do, I'll remember this technique. If you see me doing it wrong, please correct me!