Dear Sue Z. Maroon,
I know everyone around campus is starting to get sick – whether it’s the stomach bug or horrible coughing – and my roommate has come down with a bad case of whatever is going around. I don’t want her to get me sick, but I don’t know how to tell her that I want her to use hand sanitizer or other things to keep her from spreading germs. What should I do?
Your fears are very valid. It is always a stressful time when the whole campus seems to get sick at once. With so many of us having busy schedules, we are all paranoid that we are going to be ill and have to miss out on work and then scramble to catch up. First, before you ask your roommate to use better germ preventing etiquette, express to your roommate that you sympathize with her. There is nothing worse than being sick and having your roommate telling you not to get her sick. That puts a lot of pressure on the person who is sick and then will make her feel guilty if you do end up getting sick. Instead, suggest ways that she could take better care of herself and get over her illness faster, whether it is getting more sleep, drinking a ton of orange juice, or taking cold medicine.
As far as germ prevention goes, I don’t think it would be rude to ask her to use hand sanitizer or to cough into her elbow instead of her hands, as long as you ask nicely and respectfully. Remind her that you are in a small, shared space and that it’s very easy for germs to spread within your room. If she still refuses to listen, take your own initiative to use hand sanitizer, wash your hands before eating, and other basic germ prevention methods. Even though you might not be able to control how your roommate handles germs, you can always control what you do. Ultimately, by taking good care of yourself, you seriously reduce your risk of getting sick; use good sanitation, get enough sleep, and eat foods that are full of Vitamin C, and hopefully you will get through plague season unharmed!
Sue Z. Maroon