No "Bless You" Needed For a Cough
There's something about saying 'God bless you' when someone sneezes that gets on my nerves. I don't know if it's the use of God in a superstitious belief or just the fact that it is a tradition started almost a thousand years ago that refuses to die. That common human need to say the words is bad enough, but what's far worse is when someone says, or is expected to say 'God bless you' for a cough and not a sneeze! There is a difference! They are not the same thing!
It is believed that the 'God bless you' originated during the Black Death in Medieval Europe, when a sneeze was the first sign that you were infected with the Bubonic plague. The plague was a terrible infectious disease that ultimately decimated 30-60% of 14th century Europe. The 'God bless you' was supposed to be a quick blessing to protect your soul against the impending doom. At a time when disease was thought to be of supernatural origin it made sense for them to summon God to help save them. Today though we know better and yet the saying continues, almost instinctively.
"A sneeze (or sternutation) is a semi-autonomous, convulsive expulsion of air from the lungs through the nose and mouth, usually caused by foreign particles irritating the nasal mucosa." - Wikipedia
"A cough, is a sudden and often repetitively occurring reflex which helps to clear the large breathing passages from secretions, irritants, foreign particles and microbes." - Wikipedia
So now that we have established that there is a difference between a cough and a sneeze please people don't say, or expect me to say 'God bless you' for a cough.