Elbow Snot

It’s cold and flu season again/still. Actually it seems to be cold and flu season all year long, does’t it? According to Health Canada , cold and flu season in this country is from November to April (Only half the year! Phew!)

So lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of people coughing and sneezing all over their clothing. Sneezing and coughing on your clothing seems to be all the rage this cold and flu season. The Center for Disease Control advocates using your clothing to catch your coughs and sneezes. The “Sneeze Doctor”,  Dr. Ben Lounsbury has made an entire career out of shoving the “Sleeve Sneeze” (aka “Dracula Cough”) down our raw, infected throats with his  Why Don’t We Do It In Our Sleeves propoganda.

The break-through science behind this bold, new disease-fighting technique is that splattering your germs onto fabric contains the germs and causes them to dry up and die — right there on your sleeves.

How revolutionary! (From the root word, “revolting”)

So, here’s my thought. If you’re sick enough to be sneezing and coughing all over the place — stay home. Or, if you absolutely need to be up and about, I can recommend an amazing product generically known as FACIAL TISSUES. I don’t know what they were originally invented for, but I’ve been using them quite successfully for years to capture the phlegm and debris from coughs and sneezes[1]. And they’re disposable![2] Yes, I use them and then I throw them away like boyfriends. Then I wash my hands or use some of that hand sanitizer everyone who’s anyone carries around these days. And then I’m  good to go.

Of course  there are people who have no common courtesy and sneeze all over other people or sneeze into their hands and then go and touch stuff other people are going to be touching.  And there are people who put their hands in or around their faces without washing their hands after  touching the stuff the people without common courtesy have touched. These people have no common sense and will get the plague sooner or later and die anyway.  We are not going to be able to save them by sleeve sneezing, trust me.

I’m thinking, however, maybe I’m not the only one who grew up in Rational-Human-Being-Land[3], where we were taught to always carry tissues when we were sick and to wash our hands after blowing our noses and to not suck on our fingers after shaking hands with someone who just coughed something green and slimy into his hands.

These time-tested practices now seem to be passé. Now we can’t be trusted to retain such complex information, so we are instructed (with colourful, easy-to-remember and entertaining instructional videos produced by people much smarter than they think we are) to  just expel our germs and bodily fluids onto our clothing.

Good grief, people! Are we hillbillies? Have we really regressed to the point where we’re back to wiping our noses on our sleeves?

What if you’re wearing a tank top or short sleeved shirt?[4] What if you’ve got a mouth full of oatmeal and have to sneeze or cough? What if you’ve got a snout full of snot and have to sneeze?

Ewwwww. That’s what.

And the really extra stupid thing I’m seeing is people just coughing or sneezing into the general direction of their sleeves so, while the person in front of them is sort of safe from the spray of bacteria and mucus, everyone beside and/or behind them gets a full blast. 

At the last minute some shred of these people’s abased dignity must have surfaced and told them that clothing is not the right place for snot. They recall, perhaps, that when they eat, they wipe their hands with serviettes and not on their trousers. And then they wonder if perhaps somewhere out there is a serviette-type thing for snot so they don’t have to wipe that on their clothing either.

Once upon a time ladies used to wipe their nether regions with their undergarments if they had to do their business outdoors and/or because the toilet paper of the day was too rough for their delicate skin. If we all get too stupid or lazy to remember to use toilet paper, will there be an instructional video asking, Why Don’t We Do It In Our Underpants?

So now I have to be afraid to sit too close to anyone or accidentally brush up against anyone in case I get elbow-snot transference. AND, the cherry on top of this whole nutty meringue is that they’re also trying, as Violetsky  recently pointed out,  to get us to stop shaking hands and kissing and to greet each other instead with — THE ELBOW BUMP!   


[1] You’re going to need one to blow or wipe your drippy nose anyway.
[2] I know, not environmentally friendly, right? And having to do extra laundry because your shirts are stiff with snot isn’t?  What about good old-fashioned handkerchiefs? Oh ya, people decided it was gross to sneeze into a piece of cloth you were going to carry around in your pocket.
[3] Just south of I-Learned-Some-Manners-Land, neighbouring Don’t-Blow-Your-Nose-On-Your-Shirtsleeve-Land.
[4] I’ve seen a woman in a tank top lift up the end of her long skirt and sneeze into that AND wipe her nose with it afterwards. I’ve seen a woman carrying a baby sneeze into her baby’s blanket because she couldn’t twist enough to get her sleeve. My nephew sneezed into my mother’s kitchen curtains once because it was summer and he wasn’t wearing sleeves. And I’ve seen people spewing things onto their clothes and then wiping it off with their hands. Excellent!



The question arose: why are we worried about germs on door-knobs and other hard surfaces and encouraged to hack germs all over our clothes? The Sleeve Sneeze people tell us germs just up and die on our clothes, but this didn’t make much sense to me so I did some research and found out that in order to thrive germs need moisture and food (just like us). Heres’ what else I found:

But even frequently handled hard surfaces like water faucets and door handles are not as big a source of infections as you might think, because germs don’t thrive on, or transfer well from, hard surfaces.

Germs transfer easily from the moist damp surface of the skin. The greatest risk of infection is from your hands touching someone else and then touching your face.

No bacteria or virus can live on dry surfaces with a humidity of less than 10 percent. Any sort of nutrients-food particles, skin cells, blood, mucus-helps microbes thrive…bacterial spore can survive for weeks on dry clothing using sloughed skin cells for food.


28 responses to “Elbow Snot

  1. I should probably wait to read people’s comments on this since I’m not really much of a public person and spend 90% of my time in my house, but my husband has always been amazed at how I can jump out of my chair and grab a tissue from the coffee table in time to catch a sneeze. If I can’t make it to the kleenex, I always point down and sneeze on the carpet, so needless to say, I do not have a 5 second rule for dropped food.

  2. i feel like i should have a sign that says “i’m not sick i have allergies”. i’m sneezing and blowing my nose all the time (into a tissue) and people on the bus look at me like i am the messenger of death.

  3. You’ve just hit on my problem with all this flu/H1N1 hyperbole. People seem to think that using your clothing to catch coughs & sneezes and using Purell is going to solve all our problems.

    It won’t.

    It’s pure ignorance about how illnesses are spread and what they actually are (ie bacterial or viral).

    But, as you suggested, it’s the general public’s willingness to accept solutions provided to those “much smarter than they think we are”.

  4. I can see the latest clothing fashion…elbows with specially-designed pockets to hold some kind of kleenex pad/sanitary napkin to sneeze in.

    Left or right elbow, depending on which side you like to sneeze to.

    And 20 years from now, we’ll all be laughing at this, and early 21-st century “Flu Jackets) will become collectors items on E-bay.

  5. “Yes, I use them and then I throw them away like boyfriends. Then I wash my hands or use some of that hand sanitizer everyone who’s anyone carries around these days. And then I’m good to go.”
    Really how heartless. I think you should at least send them a farewell card or something. Or perhaps you should stop dating boys that require you to debug after use.

  6. “If you’re sick enough to be sneezing and coughing all over the place — stay home”

    Why more people don’t do this is perplexing and infuriating, but I’ve got three theories. A)They are misanthropes and want to spread their germs, B) They used up their sick leave already with nursing hangovers and/or C)They are banking their sick leave so they can use it right before they retire so they get to leave even earlier. (I’ve witnessed this phenomemon before)


  7. Geewits – If I have a cold I always have pocketsful of kleenex. I guess the carpet is a good place to sneeze on to as well — it’s fabric, right? Why can’t germs live on fabric, but can live forever on doorknobs?

    Meanie – Ya, I was at A&W once and the server dork kept sneezing into his hands and then handled my food without washing them first and I said I didn’t want that food that he just touched and he said it was okay because it was just allergies, not a cold. I asked for my money back. A sneeze is a sneeze.

    Ken – There is so much information, misinformation and mythology around all this cold and flu stuff. The sleeve sneezing thing is the last straw for me. It so freakin’ absurd. I go to meetings and 80% of the people there are coughing and sneezing into their shirts. I SO want to yell at them.

    Friar – I actually read something about “sleeve sleeves” – that there are actually paper sleeve thingies you can slide over your shirt sleeves when you are sick which will protect your shirt when you sneeze and cough on it. I’m hoping that was a joke. I can’t find a website for them, but how ridiculous would that be? KLEENEX ya’ll. Sheesh.

    Bandobras – Cards carry nasty germs and viruses. And all human contact requires immediate and thorough sanitation. Obviously you haven’t been keeping up with the Health Canada warnings.

    Hannah – People like to save their sick days for goofing off. Who wants to waste a day off lying around feeling miserable? You might as well go to work where you’re already miserable. And then you can make everyone else sick and miserable, too. Misery loves company, right?

  8. I remember when wiping your snot on your clothing made you disgusting. It wasn’t all that long ago. And something else you said really made sense. Something about tissues or something. Can you get those anywhere or do you have to order them from a special website? You know what? I’ll google it. Lets see… disposable snot catchers? That didn’t work… sneeze utensils? Nope. Dammit. No wonder no one uses these things. You can’t find them anywhere. Anyway, I guess I will need a link or maybe I can send you some money if you have a source. Any help you can offer would be greatly appreciated.

  9. Stupid bit of trivia here.

    Why do we have buttons on the cuffs of our coats?

    Napolean Bonaparte started it.

    He got tired of seeing troops wipe their noses on the sleeves of their uniforms. So he put buttons there to discourage it.

    True story. (Look it up if you don’t believe me.)

  10. I was eating my morning yogurt as i read this where would be the proper place in the office to hurl? In my wastebasket, my co-workers wastebasket or on my sleeve?

    I knew this guy who was taught to sneeze down his undershirt. He would pull his undershirt forward and sneeze on his chest. I won’t tell you how he blew his nose because I am still kinda of gagging here.

  11. Ken – OMG!!! The sleeve sleeves are REAL.(Did you see this Friar). I really thought it was a joke. How incredibly stupid. And the other link? All it says is that germs live longer on hard surfaces – I want to know why? Why are hard surfaces more friendly to germs than fabric? So a handkerchief full of snot is germ-free, but my desktop is a hotbed of bacteria? What do germs need to stay alive? I’m going to have to look this up.

    Mayopie – HERE is a website where you can order these snot papers. They’re very expensive, only available from this website and they have limited quantities. You have to pre-order a year ahead and have to commit to at least a 5-year contract or they won’t even look at your order. Good luck.

    Friar – I DO believe you, but I looked it up anyway because I like looking stuff up and don’t have much else to do this afternoon. The site I found said it was Washington though, not Napoleon. It would have been way more fun if he’s just put spikes on the coat cuffs don’t you think? A much quicker lesson and an effective weapon at the same time.

    Cedar – You totally crack me up. I know people say that all the time in the blogosphere, but I really mean it. I didn’t spit tea on my monitor nor did I ROFL, but I did LOL. The answer to a) would be Your Wastebasket. And that guy – what a retard. I’m sure his parents were just messing with his head and probably laughed their bags off every time he sneezed onto his chest. Did they also tell him that sticking his finger up his nose would help him think during job interviews?

  12. Thanks for the timely public service announcement. What would the world do without you, XUP? I have just finished taping a box of kleenex to my belt so that I am ready for any rogue sneezes.

  13. I love the sneeze. I will sometimes inhale pepper just for the pleasure.

    And there are sneeze-related games that you can play.

    Check out this one. It’s super-fun!


    Here’s the description:

    Help to prevent the spread of the swine flu by catching your sneezes with a tissue and then washing your hands.

    This educational software/game illustrates the consequences of allowing the flu to spread in an interactive graphical simulation. It is intended to inform people of the reasons to take measures that will help prevent further spreading of the flu. Funded by the biomedical research charity, WellcomeTrust.ac.uk and Channel 4.

    So see – just letting go into the environment can be educational and entertaining!

  14. That’s why I have never been afraid of sitting on public toilets – germs need a specific environment to survive – a toilet seat is not a petri dish. I will continue to kiss, hug, and shake hands. I will also carry a Kleenex to sneeze into, and stay home if I am sick.

  15. Xup, I rarely have a cold. My sneezes are allergy sneezes, and I sneeze randomly every single day, so I guess, I’m not really spreading viruses when I sneeze on the carpet, just, I’m just spraying beer spittle.

  16. Alison – Gee, it wasn’t meant as a PSA. I’d never prevent anyone from sneezing into their clothing if they really want to, I was just expressing dismay at the big push to get everyone to do it.

    Trashee – Well, you should be ecstatic these days then since you’ve been home dying of pneumonia for almost 2 weeks! Enjoy.

    Woodsy – You could be the poster-woman for living sensibly and harmoniously with bacteria. What will you wear?

    Geewits – Oh well, beer has alcohol which is a disinfectant anyway, so it’s all good!

  17. Ugh, I was so with you right up until the last half-dozen words in the update. “…using sloughed skin cells for food” *full body shudder*

    Ick, ick, ickity ick…

  18. Oh, this is hilarious!

    My six year old daughter is being indoctrinated with sneeze in your sleeve at school. And, after all the time and effort I’ve spent trying to teach her NOT to wipe her nose on her sleeve!

  19. and, as if baby spittup on the shoulder isn’t enough to worry about, there is now snot on the sleeve to watch out for.

    quick – someone make one of those fancy kleenex holders, maybe with glitter for the kids, a new fashion accessory for your belt or handbag, that can complement the one that holds your Purell and your cellphone.

  20. Dani – Germs gotta eat, too!

    Mama Zen – I caught my daughter doing it the other day, too. “Read my blog”, I told her. “I never want to see you doing that again.” Now she does it on purpose to bug me.

    Violetsky – I think there’s an opportunity there for a smart entrepreneur. And, since it was your idea, I think you should jump on that pdq.

    LoLa – I always seem to be offending you with my yucky posts. I’m sorry. I’m going to have to come up with some sort of LoLa rating for them. So that one LoLa is okay, two LoLas means risky, 3 LoLas don’t read if you’re LoLa, and 4 LoLas probably should only be read by those with really strong stomachs. Whaddya think?

  21. Pingback: H1N1 immunizations – just do it! | Trashy's World

  22. now i have more to worry about. i think people should just stop touching people they don’t know all together (and some that we do KNOW that do gross stuff).

  23. LoLa – To be implemented immediately. Of course I’m never really sure what’s going to gross you out, so this might not work.

    Leah – Humans without human contact is a sad, sad thing, I think. People already touch each other less in our culture than most other cultures AND we touch each other less than we used to a few decades ago. I think we all need to pay more attention to our overall health, eat better, get more exercise and then we’ll be more resistent to all these weird viruses.

  24. Hello all! I like this forum, i organize many interesting people on this forum.!!!

    Pronounced Community, respect all!

  25. I have a couple scenarios that require elbow sneezes.
    1) Being in public (such as a grocery store), then suddenly a sneeze comes on. I try to hold my sneezes in when possible, but powerful, held sneezes can be painful and damaging. It happens in such an instant, that there is no time to fumble a tissue from a pocket/purse/bag. Would you rather have me sneeze all over the cart, all over my hands to touch all of your food, or all over the shopper next to me (aiming for the floor)?
    2) I’m not the only person who works in retail. Taking sick days just isn’t possible. Most retail jobs only give you so many unapproved days off before you get FIRED. I have no choice but to go to work. Unfortunately, that means going to work sick, a lot. I do my best to use tissues and hand sanitizer, but there’s that damn sudden sneeze again. I certainly can’t sneeze in the open air. It’s irresponsible and disgusting. I can’t sneeze into my hands, then handle customers’ products. There’s that damn tissue all wadded up in my pocket again, which never seems to come out and unfold in time for that wicked sneeze. What other choice do I have? It’s elbow time, Baby.