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Covering the mouth when coughing is standard courtesy not just to prevent saliva from splattering on someone else’s face but also to prevent germs in cough from getting a free ride via droplets to jump ship and invade another person’s body.

It used to be that coughers cover their mouth with hands. But with the COVID-19 pandemic killing tens of thousands of people around the world, people learned that handkerchief or tissue paper instead of bare hands should be used to cover the mouth when coughing. Otherwise, deadly germs will spread through handshakes or by touching one’s mouth, nose and eyes.

If a hanky or tissue paper is not available, the elbow can be used as cover or we should cough inside our shirt through the collar to contain the droplets. One with cough can also wear a medical mask which prevents droplets from scattering in the air.

Cough is one of the symptoms of COVID-19 infection. This has made healthy people wary of coughers. Even if a person is not infected with the coronavirus, he or she can get a death stare even with just one innocent cough.

This reality inspired a funny meme that mocks newscaster Mike Enriquez for his habit of coughing and saying “excuse me” during live broadcast. The meme reads: Pansin ko lang nitong nagdaang araw parang hindi umuubo si Mike Enriquez sa 24 Oras. (I noticed that Mike Enriquez of 24 Oras was not coughing the past few days.)

A coughing prank can even be criminally charged. Last Sunday, a 50-year-old man from New Jersey allegedly coughed on purpose close to a local grocery store employee and then telling her he has the coronavirus. The prank victim sued George Falcone of Freehold and the state prosecutor on Tuesday charged him with harassment and making terroristic threats which carry prison terms of up to six months and five years, respectively, if found guilty.

There may be other coughing situations that provoke stress. Needless to say, people are being careful when coughing in public.

Another funny meme suggests how coughers, healthy or not, are coping to avoid getting unnecessary attention. The meme reads: This coronavirus is changing everyone’s behavior. I used to cough to hide a fart. Now I’m farting to hide my cough.

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