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The cough pocket

3 mins read

By Lee Scott

One day last week, I woke up with a sore throat and a stuffy head. This was somewhat disconcerting because I think I take good care of myself.  “What happened?,” I asked my husband. 

“You went to see those little kids,” he reminded me.

“Oh no!” He was right. I attended a Grandparents Day at an elementary school. There I was helplessly surrounded by hundreds of little kids with only a 3-ounce bottle of Purell to protect me. I should have known I would end up sick in bed. 

I remember when I first walked into the school I instinctively looked to the right of the door to see if there were any squirt bottles of hand sanitizers. When I didn’t spot any, I thought maybe there were canisters of sanitizing wipes like the ones my grocery store keeps near the grocery carts. Nothing. I grabbed my little bottle and started squirting the gel on my hands. I knew what I was up against. 

There were little kids all around me sneezing and coughing into their elbows. 

“What happened to the good old-fashioned tissues we used when I was a child?,” I asked the teacher, Ms. Schultz. 

She indicated it was the new practice used to avoid the spreading of germs.  The theory is that if a sick child sneezes into the air, those germs get airborne and will spread, but if they sneeze into the crook of their arm, the germs stay with them. This area of the arm is now called the “cough pocket.” The idea is also to keep the child from using their hands when they sneeze. The hands become their own little germ transfer center, but the cough pocket keeps the germs with the student. Evidently, it is also cheaper to teach the kids this technique since the teachers do not have to have an endless supply of Kleenex on hand.

My first thought was that I was going to stay to the right side of each student to avoid their left cough pockets.  Then I noticed three left-handed kids. At that point, I just pulled out the remains of my Purell container.

When I returned home, I researched the “cough pocket” and found that one grandfather had invented a “Sneeve.” It is a disposable sleeve that fits over the arm.  Think of it as an armband Kleenex so shirts are spared the daily onslaught of germs. As I sat in my bed with my box of tissues, hot tea, and chicken soup, I thought of a great gift for Ms. Schutz. We could call it a Classroom Teachers Kit and it would contain all sizes of sanitizers, because not even the cough pocket catches all the germs.

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