Cover your mouth, please

I’m just wondering if anyone has any theories about why a great number of people in Taiwan (and China as well) do not cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because of the outbreak of SARS, the mystery bug that’s spreading across the world. Is it just a lack of sophistication or is there a deeper explanation? I’d greatly welcome your thoughts.

Because sneezing is such an important part of Chinese culture, instead of “how are you ?” it’s “have you sneezed yet ?”, The whole family has to gather so they can sneeze together, everyone is so busy… working late… there’s hardly any time to talk and sneeze, so they have their daily gossip while they sneeze. Why cover up the enjoyment of sneezing ? It is best shared.

No, wait, that doesn’t sound right.

Well some people do cover up but many don’t. Again just a cultural difference. Your mom told you as a young boy to cover your mouth/nose when you cough/sneeze. Just because she told you since day one to cover up doesn’t make you more sophisticated than others. There are some cultures that find the shaking of hands as a greeting gross or offensive…who knows (or nose) where you’ve stuck your hand?!? :wink:

ps not all diseases are spread through sneezing or coughing

pps in a country of a billion plus, being “polite” is not a high priority, especially due to the high proximaty of so many people…if you’re surrounded by people on all sides, it is impossible to sneeze/cough in any direction without incurring some sort of “splash damage”

ppps here’s some sophistication for ya… some oriental people find others stupid if they don’t know how to use chopsticks properly…anybody can use a dumb fork and knife :stuck_out_tongue:

Lately, I been really annoyed that my 5yo coughs and ‘forgets’ to cover his mouth. ‘Forgets’ because I know he knows to cover his mouth when he coughs or sneezes. I reminded him quite a few times yesterday and he said, “but how come my chinese friends don’t do that?”

Today, instead of scolding him for not covering his mouth, I praised him when he did remember. Positive reinforcement and all that.

Good question though… as health conscious as the Chinese seem to be, you’d think it would be as natural to them as washing their hands frequently, a habit we’ve picked up ourselves.

Covering one’s mouth while sneezing does little except arrest phlegmy projectiles, which, while green and slimy, are unlikely to end up in another persons respiratory system.
The thousands of tiny droplets expelled as an aerosol, however, potentially carrying viruses into the air for other to breathe in, will still escape even with a hand over one’s mouth.

I think that answers the question (if there was one) in the OP linking putting a hand in front of one’s face while sneezing to the issue of global epidemics.

Very true. As a person well versed in the field of molecular biology and biochemistry i suggest people should wash their hands more religiously.

Not advocating people should peel their skin with some anti-bacterial wash, but just simple running water to get that coat of slime off your hands will do wonders for your health.

I can tell you that you have a way better chance of catching some kind of bug from not frequently washing your hands than from walking through some person’s expired nasal exhaust!

Maybe some good will come of all of this if the death tolls continue to rise. I mean, maybe it will finally break the Chinese age-old tradition of hoiking and blowing their snot all over the damn place. Take a train in China and you slide all over the floor.

That’s a joke, right? Most don’t wash, they just rinse with water and like lot’s of males from other countries most men here don’t wash nor rinse after using the toilet.

I was at the Mickey D’s on Xinsheng between Ren’ai and Zhongxiao this morning for coffee and a newspaper, and the 40-something guy two tables over, horked really loudly and then spat the mucous gobule onto the floor in two juicy spits. The frigging floor of McDonald’s :!: :shock:

I lit right into him with fairly indignant anger: [quote]What the hell (Ta-ma-de) do you think you are doing? People are EATING here! Don’t you know how many people are sick right now in HK, Taiwan and China? How do you think they got that way? They were infected! And here you are spitting your greeny ko-shui all over the floor. You’re not in the countryside buddy - get some manners![/quote]
Buddyboy was pretty shocked, and my little rant gave the woman next to me courage to stare at him until he stammered a confused duibuqi and hastily departed, leaving his glistening legacy shimmering next to his empty table. Yeccccchhhhh! :x :imp: :shock:

Maoman, I really wish I could give you guanxi for that. Good job. Was there any applause afterwards, or merely the usual cowering, “Oh no, the whitie is causing a scene” reaction?

Neither. There were nods of approval, and a few smirks. I think the nature of the offence was sufficiently outrageous that my foreignness was less of an issue than it would normally have been. :sunglasses:

Greetings again. I’m the one who raised this issue. I found everyone’s response really interesting. Please allow me to share my theories, which may be really far-fetched.

I’m wondering if the traditional Chinese view of what causes illness has something to do with the habit of not covering up sneezes. I don’t know a lot about traditional Chinese medicine, but it seems that much of its elaborate view of sickness and treatment is not based on modern microbiology or the theory that germs, microbes, viruses, etc. can play a key role in making people sick. So maybe this is why ethnic Chinese communities have been relatively slow in being aware of how a careless sneeze or cough might affect others.

I’m also wondering if Confucius should share some of the blame for this habit. I can’t help but think about some of Bo Yang’s writings that talk about how Confucius help develop an extremely selfish mentality in Chinese communities. Bo likes to talk about how Confucius pretty much instructed common folks to focus on their own families prosperity and leave civic and political concerns up to the rulers. Instead of a Judeo-Christian ethic of giving a stranger the same kind of basic regard that you would give a family member, Confucius encouraged folks to just care about your family. So who cares if you just sneezed in the face of the guy on the MRT, he’s not related to you and if he gets sick, that’s his family’s problem. At least this is my reading of Bo’s reading of Kongzi.

Just one more point: Someone mentioned that covering a sneeze wouldn’t do much good. I’m not a medical expert but I just can’t believe this. I remember seeing either a textbook picture or a movie in high school that showed the big cloud of mist (mostly tiny, tiny drops of spittle and mucus we can’t see) people create when they sneeze. I think two hands cupped over the mouth can stop a lot of this.



My wife thinks that bad breath is caused by not drinking enough water, very little to do with bacteria…

“How can I stop myself and others getting ill ? A) Make sure everything clean so germs can’t spread and don’t sneeze on people or B) Wear something of a lucky colour ?”

Buiness is the same here. “Our business isn’t doing very well, what should we do ? A) Make something of high quality that people will want to buy or B) Burn more paper and pollute the air more”

If you did sneeze into your hand, won’t all the germs then be on your hand for you to spread by touch ? At least that way it’s less likely to find it’s way into someone’s face.