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by Abigail Van Buren

Uncovered Cough Prompts Rebuke of Customer in Line

DEAR ABBY: I was waiting in line to get a cup of coffee and the customer behind me was so close she was almost touching me. Then she coughed without covering her mouth. I stepped away, but she closed in on me and coughed again without covering.

I turned and politely asked her to step back and cover her mouth the next time she coughed. She said she had an allergy and not a cold. I suggested that because we are in the midst of cold and flu season, there's no way that I -- or anyone else -- could know the difference between a cough from allergy or illness. Was it rude on my part? Or should we all practice some courtesy by covering our mouths when we cough or sneeze? -- RUDE IN MINNESOTA

DEAR RUDE: What you said was not rude; it was common sense. The notion that if you don't think you're sick ("only allergic"), you have the right to cough on others is misguided. When you asked the woman not to hover near you, she should have respected your request, stepped back and not closed in again whether or not she continued to cough. Flu season is in full swing. That's why it's important for everyone who is out in public -- and exposed -- to practice good hygiene.

Read more in: Health & Safety | Etiquette & Ethics