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No "Bless You" Needed For a Cough

Updated on April 1, 2014

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.

Do you say 'God Bless You'?

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    • Jyle Dupuis profile imageAUTHOR

      Jyle Dupuis 

      6 years ago from Henrico, Virginia

      There was a whole episode of Seinfeld about it.

      Check it out here:

      The world is full of all kind of discriminators.

    • Attikos profile image


      6 years ago from East Cackalacky

      That's odd. I've never known anyone to think ill of another merely because he doesn't say "Bless you." Maybe you need a different circle of acquaintances.

    • Jyle Dupuis profile imageAUTHOR

      Jyle Dupuis 

      6 years ago from Henrico, Virginia

      The part I find offensive is that I am considered a bad person for not saying 'bless you'. I also don't care if a black cat crosses my path, walk under a ladder, break a mirror or open an umbrella inside the house. For me saying 'bless you' isn't about saying a kind gesture but perpetuating a pagan or superstitious tradition.

      When someone sneezes I choose to say 'Gesundheit' instead of having people roll their eyes at me for being inconsiderate.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I have actually never had anyone say anything when I cough other then "want a cough drop"? While living overseas I was asked why I was excusing myself for sneezing which is something beyond my control... Good Point!

    • Attikos profile image


      6 years ago from East Cackalacky

      Blessing someone who sneezes predates Christianity. It was a pagan custom. The idea was that you were trying to expel a demon, and the blessing was merely a kind expression of good wishes and good luck. Why anyone would find such a touching, generous and caring tradition to be offensive is beyond my understanding.


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