1. Winifred Rosenburg

    What is the proper response to someone coughing repeatedly? I used to think the best thing was to ignore it. It’s not that I’m not concerned with the person coughing, but usually the person is coughing because he or she had something go down “the wrong pipe” and there’s nothing anyone can really do to help so I feel it’s best to minimize the person’s embarrassment by pretending I don’t notice.

    However, I was at a party where a woman started coughing. I assumed it was the usual reason and pretended not to notice. It was a good thing others didn’t use my strategy because it turned out she was having an allergic reaction and needed help. What is the correct response in these situations?

    • If it goes on for a while, I offer a cough drop (I try to keep one or two on me). That way, if the person needs more assistance, that’s an opportunity for him/her to signal that to me. If something simple is wrong (such as the wrong pipe, or a tickle in the throat), s/he may wave me away or accept the drop. I don’t think you did anything incorrectly, though, as I usually prefer people ignore me.
      I hope the person at the party is okay!

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