You know your etiquette basics: Saying “please” and “thank you.” Arriving on time. Drinking tea with your pinkie up. Having good manners can mean the difference between looking sophisticated and trustworthy or coming off like Son of Shrek.
They can also mean the difference between life and death.
You may not even know you’re responsible for some of these Worst Health Etiquette Mistakes You Can Make. Remember them please. Thank you.
If you are contagious, it’s not appropriate to go to the office and “power through it.” There is nothing ruder than knowingly infecting other people. “For the love of humanity, do not come to work if you are sick or believe you may have the flu,” states Michèle Oricoli, Certified Etiquette Consultant and founder of More Than Manners. “Sharing, in this case, is not caring.”
Opting not to wash your hands might seem like a personal choice, but when you neglect to do so you are compromising the health of others by exposing them to potential germs. “Wash your hands when leaving the restroom and before or after preparing food,” instructs Oricoli. “Do it thoroughly and often.” According to the CDC, you should scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. If you need a timer, she suggests humming the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
If you do opt to go out in public when you aren’t feeling well, avoid making physical contact with others. “If you aren’t feeling up to par, tell others that you will spare them your germs and not greet them as usual,” says Oricoli. “Skip handshakes, hugs, and kisses. They will be grateful for the courtesy.”
Want to seriously offend someone? Ask them if they are pregnant when they aren’t. “Never ask anyone if they are pregnant even if you are 99% certain that they are,” Oricoli instructs. Let them bring it up.
Our health is a very personal subject matter, and most people do not like their issues shared or discussed by others. “Unless you have been given permission, don’t ever share somebody else’s medical or health status told to you in confidence,” urges Oricoli.
Just don’t use your hand! “If you’re caught unprepared, direct your mouth and nose toward your upper sleeve or the inside of your elbow,” Oricoli suggests. MIT scientists have confirmed that sneezes and coughs can travel farther than you ever cared to imagine—a “paint-like pattern of fluid fragmentation.” Say it, don’t spray it.
Yes, everyone has to blow their nose at one time or another—no shame. But that doesn’t make the process of removing snot from your nose and into a tissue any less gross. “If you need to blow your nose, excuse yourself and take care of business in the restroom,” says Oricoli. “Dispose of all tissues and wash your hands.” Also, if you do end up blowing your nose in front of others, she suggests refraining from examining the tissue for its contents.
…especially when you are sick. Always sanitize your work area if you aren’t feeling well, especially in co-working spaces. “Wipe down the desk, phone, keyboard and door handles. It is a basic courtesy for the health of your coworkers and their loved ones,” states Oricoli.
Avoid TMI! While it’s totally fine to talk to people close to you about your health issues, you should probably spare strangers any gory details, suggests Oricoli. Don’t overshare.
If you want to avoid one of your guests needing an EpiPen along with the appetizers, you should always ask them if they have any allergies or sensitivities before serving time. “If a host doesn’t ask and you have restrictions, contact the host and graciously offer to bring a dish so as not to make more work,” suggests Oricoli. “Often the oversight is realized or accommodations have already been made.”
Paper, disposable guest towels aren’t just an interior design style statement—they can protect your guests from spreading germs! “As a host, if possible, place disposable hand towels in your bathroom to avoid the damp, communal towel,” says Oricoli. “Your guests will appreciate it.”
Every gym offers sanitary wipes for a reason. Even if you aren’t sick, always wipe down every piece of gym equipment that you touch. If you don’t, you are committing one of the biggest health etiquette offenses, according to Oricoli. “Remembering basic respect and adhering to The Golden Rule is key here,” she points out.
Whether you are sick or not, never ever pull a George Costanza and double dip your chip. “There’s no reason to spread germs,” points out Oricoli.
Germs, germs, and germs! Nobody wants to eat food that you have already touched with your dirty hands. Use the tongs.
Consider others before leaving the house with bad breath, suggests Vishal Patel, MD, MBA, FAAP, FACP, clinical lead for ChristianaCare’s Primary Care & Community Medicine and a senior clinical investigator with ChristianaCare’s Value Institute. Studies have actually found that having bad breath can lead to serious social repercussions and affect an individual’s overall well being. Always brush your teeth before leaving the house, and if that isn’t enough, make an appointment with your dentist to discuss other options, like a tongue scraper.
It’s always awkward when you are talking to someone who has a big chunk of food in their teeth. Avoid committing a social faux pas—and improve your overall oral health—by flossing before you head out. “Many patients of mine think brushing their teeth daily will prevent cavities, infection and improve dental hygiene. However, flossing is just as critical, if not moreso, to maintain healthy gums and prevent bacteria and plaque from forming between the teeth – which also leads to bad breath! In addition, plaque can weaken one’s teeth, lead to tooth loss and gum disease,” explains Dr. Patel.
Not getting enough sleep isn’t just bad for your health, it can negatively impact others. “If you’re not getting enough sleep during the night, that makes you drowsy when you interact with others during the day,” Dr. Patel points out. There are other problems as well: Data suggest that inadequate sleep leads to an increased risk of depression, cancer, heart disease, obesity and memory loss. The goal is for adults to get at least 7 to 9 hours each night. “I reiterate to my patients that certain tasks can wait until the next day, and they’ll be better able to socialize with others, by avoiding cramming everything for one day and compromising on their sleep.”
According to the CDC, pools can be hot zones for bacteria and infections. Sadly, many are avoidable. If you follow three simple guidelines, you can do your part in keeping disease out of pools. First, stay out of the water if you have diarrhea. Second, always shower before you get in the water. And third, don’t pee or poop in the water.
According to one study, a whopping 95 percent of people cop to picking their nose. However, just because everyone is doing it doesn’t mean anyone wants to see it done by someone else! Not only does it look gross, but picking your nose and then touching someone else can spread infection.
Dirty nails aren’t pretty to look at, but they can also harbor disease. According to the CDC, the dirt and germs crusted underneath your nails can contribute to the spread of pinworms. Keep them clean and trim. Just don’t clip them on the subway.
Athlete’s foot is an infection of the skin and feet that can be caused by a variety of different fungi and is easily transmitted in public showers and pool areas. Even if you don’t think you have it, in order to prevent yourself from getting it or spreading it, the CDC recommends always wear shower shoes when bathing in public areas.
Head lice, those parasitic insects that found on the head and neck and survive by feeding on human blood, usually spread quickly around schools as children in classroom settings come into close contact with one another. But even adults can get lice. According to the CDC, one of the best prevention methods is not sharing hair brushes or combs with anyone.
According to the CDC, a large percentage of foodborne disease outbreaks are spread by contaminated hands. If you touch contaminated meat and then come into contact with someone else, you could expose them to a potentially life-threatening infection. Always wash your hands immediately after handling meat.
Always resist the urge to pop pimples or other skin bumps in front of others. Even if they are avid fans of “Dr. Pimple Popper,” they probably aren’t interested in being exposed to your pus.
While you might think you are the life of the party after you’ve hit the bar multiple times, it’s very likely you are going to say or do something you will later regret. Keep in mind that multiple studies have found that an individual’s binge drinking can have very serious adverse effects on those around the drinker.
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While you might think your sweat smells better than roses, science has confirmed that body odor can be extremely offensive to others. Deodorant or antiperspirant is an easy solution to a stinky situation, and if you’re concerned about aluminum, seek one that’s aluminum-free, like Dove Women Aluminum Free or Ursa Major Hoppin’ Fresh Deodorant.
Almost one-third of people report being seriously sensitive to scent. You might think that dousing yourself in your favorite perfume or cologne is going to attract others, but there’s a good chance it will repel them instead. Go easy on the fragrance, and avoid anything too potent-smelling.
Burping is one of those things that many people can’t help. However, the practice sounds a little gross and the smell can be even worse. If you have to burp, either leave the room or keep your mouth closed in respect for others.
Just as hotels should always change bed sheets in between guests to avoid exposing others to germs, fecal matter, and bed bugs, so should you.
If you have the slightest notion that you might be coming down with something, stay far away from the hospital unless you are seeking treatment for yourself. So many people in a medical setting have compromised immune systems, and exposing them to anything contagious could have fatal repercussions.
It can be tempting to take a swig of milk straight from the carton, but keep in mind that if you do, you are exposing others to your germs. For example, if you’re infected with the flu, it could be in your backwash for days before you show symptoms, thus exposing everyone who drinks next.
You might think you are paying someone a compliment by telling them they appear to have lost or gained weight and look great, but you have no idea what that means to them. For example, they could be struggling with an eating disorder, and that comment could fuel their disease. Or, they could be suffering from a medical condition where weight loss is a symptom or side effect. Unless they bring up the topic first, it’s best to remain silent about it. And to live your happiest and healthiest life, don’t miss these 38 Ways to Live Healthy.