Sneezing Etiquette

by Claire Valenty on July 24, 2010

in Everyday Etiquette

everyday sneezing etiquette

Aren’t sure what to do when you are in public and you feel a sneeze coming on?  Our article on Sneezing Etiquette will clear your mind of all worries (but, not your nose of all its boogers)!

Sneezing etiquette will help you keep your dignity even while snot is blowing out of your nose and a hundred miles per hour.  Sneezing etiquette also can help minimize the spread of your germs.  More importantly to those around you, following proper sneezing etiquette will keep your boogers off of those around you when you sneeze.  As a sneeze, either triggered by a cold or allergies, will creep up on you unexpectedly at any time, it is important to read the list below on sneezing etiquette to ensure your sneezing etiquette is second nature.

  • Always cover your mouth and nose area when sneezing, preferably with a tissue or handkerchief, but, cupping both of your hands over that area will also work.  In dire straits, a sleeve will work as well.  These last two methods are best done in private, as there are clean up and gross factors involved.
  • If someone gives you their handkerchief when you sneeze, do not hand it back to them covered in slime.  Proper sneezing etiquette dictates you take it home, wash it and present it back to the lender in tip top shape (boogers not included).
  • If you are having a sneezing fit, please excuse yourself from the room.
  • Wash your hands after sneezing, even if you used a tissue or handkerchief, to prevent the spread of germs.
  • If you need to blow your nose after sneezing, excuse yourself from the room.  No one wants to hear that sound.  No one.
  • If you sneeze, say, “Excuse me” afterwards.  If someone near you sneezes, it is proper sneezing etiquette to say, “Bless you”, “God bless you” or “Gesundheit”.  Comedian Dane Cook has a funny part of his routine about saying “Bless you”.  Check it out and make your own decision.

While sneezing isn’t pretty, you can do it and move on as gracefully as possible by following the above tips on sneezing etiquette!

Photo: 123rf/Phil Date

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeff Fuller May 9, 2011 at 2:21 pm


With spring finally here we have some employees that are constantly sneezing at work making it somewhat annoying. What are the rules? Should I say bless you 100 times a day or tell the employee to kindly blow their nose?


Andi May 15, 2012 at 9:28 am

Actually, a sneeze should not be commented on at all. I believe “bless you” and “gesundheit” are nothing but a bad habit. A loud sneeze e.g. in an office might make the sneezer uncomfortable enough without everybody pointing it out.

Also, as Jeff mentioned, some people tend to sneeze a lot e.g. during spring. It get’s quite annoying to them as well if everybody keeps commenting on it.


Amarie October 3, 2013 at 5:43 pm

The person sneezing should promptly say, “excuse me”, after sneezing if he/she is close proximity to others and not wait around for the chorus of “bless yous” or other phrasings. The practice of “bless you” originates with superstituion when it was believed a soul was expelled from of a person’s body by the force of a sneeze; hence, persons nearby had to quickly say “bless you” so that the soul would return back to the body “shell.” Such supersitutions (particularly since religious in nature) should not be carried into a work place.

I strongly agree with the fourth bullet point–no one such have to suffer through someone’s thoughtlessness. It is a nauseating sound. Considerate persons would go to the bathroom to clear their sinsuses for a cold or take appropriate allergy medications. The whole office should not have to experience also.

Rachel November 5, 2014 at 5:01 pm

I have just sneezed at work and said to myself “Bless me”, as I believe that it was the polite thing to do. My colleague, however, has disputed my politeness and has commented that I shouldn’t have said “Bless me”, as that is “not how it works”. Does it really matter whether or not I say “Bless me,” or “Excuse me”, as long as I am saying it anyway?

Myron April 4, 2015 at 9:10 pm

Is it ok to say “sorry” instead of excuse me right after sneezing?

harry August 1, 2016 at 1:51 am

Try to prevent a sneeze if possible. If you must sneeze, sneeze into a handkerchief and put it back in your pocket. Frankly I don’t like to sit next to someone who just sneezed into his sleeve if that sleeve is next to me. My father taught me to always carry a handkerchief. I am almost 80 and am never without one.

Jeff K September 19, 2016 at 5:26 am

It’s a good point. It would be great if everyone would carry a handkerchief with them. Especially during the winter months since the amount of sneezing increases 🙂

God Created April 17, 2017 at 1:19 am

This is stupid!!!!! God created us this way. Just sneeze with your hand cover is good enough.. why try to stop and why need to say excuse me after that.. you have done nothing wrong. Must be americans that created all this etiquette.. nonsense

Lizzy June 30, 2017 at 5:41 am

My husband always says ‘pardon you’ when anyone sneezes. I find it incredibly rude. It’s like he is pointing out how offensive sneezing is. It’s not like you can help it.
I love a bless you. It’s like you are giving someone a wish that that sneeze won’t turn into a cold. Failing that don’t comment at all.
I also think a man that has a clean handkerchief is a true gentleman. Not many around unfortunately but very impressive.

Vishvendra Singh June 30, 2018 at 7:51 am

One day my friend was sneezed and said “Good”. This is correct or not.

China people-god's creation August 8, 2018 at 1:35 pm

This Article is ridiculous and simply no truth at all. Sneeze dont travel that far and IT travels about only 3 feets. DOnt write here if you have no knowledge at all. mind you , if people have allergy, it is not contagious all. If you are scare, please stay at home and dont come out. Germs are everywhere. We china people sneeze whenever, wherever and however we like. What sneeze etiquette? As long as you cover with your hand when sneeze, it is good enough. Dont try to instill any stupid cultural ideas into people. YOu americans are weak that’s why you got sick so easily. Ah choo~~~~ scare????, go and hide in your cave la….

Bill ODell March 18, 2019 at 10:06 pm

Please, please explain the etiquette when someone sneezes during a group meeting. I swear I have been in large departmental meetings when someone has sneezed and literally 20 to 25 people feel the urge to stop the meeting and say “Gesundheit”. I myself stay quiet as it is very disruptive to the whole meeting. Do you ignore the sneeze? Does everyone respond to the sneeze? should only the person nearest the sneezer acknowledge the sneeze? Please help.

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