Characters never sneeze, cough, belch, blow their noses or in any way display less than perfect health unless it is central to the plot (as in Annoying Patient or Nurse with Good Intentions). A simple cough might warrant a subplot to handle the ramifications, if it is not itself a symptom of terminal disease. If ever such symptoms have no plot significance, it's probably because the actor is actually sick. However, they'll usually try to work around that. Occasionally either justified or subverted when it turns out that the fact the character has perfect health is significant — it maybe due to a superpower (often a Healing Factor), or they may be a robot. One of the few exceptions is Catch Your Death of Cold, where temporary illness is a harmless effect of going out in cold weather. This is a fairly modern development, however; the same situation was once a popular way for fragile young ladies to catch an Incurable Cough of Death. Sort of a medical incarnation of The Law of Conservation of Detail. Compare: Soap Opera Disease. See also Ideal Illness Immunity, where never getting sick is justified with fantastic means, and We Will Have Perfect Health in the Future, where it's justified by Science Marching On.
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- Shiori, from Kanon, initially hand waves her skipping of classes and lack of energy as "a cold". While this excuse rapidly wears thin, the heartbreaking revelation is somewhat spoiled by the audience being well aware it could only be a fatal condition.
- Ohno's catching of a cold on Genshiken is what forces Saki to perform cosplay. Much to the latter's regret.
- In One Piece, Mr. 4's weapon, a gun which can become a dog by the name of Lassoo, has a cold during the fight for no particular reason. It mostly causes a comic effect when his sneezes also fire bombs. This is a turning point twice in the fight, when Chopper forces the dog to sneeze bombs into the tunnels used by Ms. Merry Christmas, and when a knocked out Lassoo sneezes one last ball which blows up him and his owners.
- Also, Nami's falling ill was the central plot of the Drum Arc, where it was also mentioned that Luffy, Sanji, and Usopp have never been sick before.
- Averted and Played for Laughs in Cowboy Bebop: Knockin' On Heaven's Door where a character sneezes on a few occasions - due to his allergies - amidst an unknown outbreak.
- This trope is the key to a Chekhov's Gun in Detective Conan that was developed over many years: any time Ai or Shinichi temporarily reversed their Fountain of Youth you'll notice they had a cold at the time, even if it had no immediately-obvious connection to the plot. It eventually turned out rather than baigar being a cure that only working once, the cure was taking baigar while you had a cold.
- Spider-Man occasionally catches a cold from staying out too long in the rain wearing nothing but his costume. He rarely has the luxury of staying in bed until he gets better.
- Averted in Cerebus the Aardvark (also notorious for a four-page Nobody Poops aversion showing him urinating); Cerebus has a cold at least once but it isn't a big deal, plot-wise.
- Averted in James Robinson's Starman from DC Comics. The dad, the original Starman, far older in mind than body, has a couple moments of coughing. In the odd way of narrating Robinson tends to do, dad reveals it was a cough, nothing else, not an incurable old man disease. And indeed it wasn't.
- Averted in Schindler's List, in which sadistic camp commandant Amon Goeth does appear to have a cold, and doesn't drop dead of consumption at the end of the film.
- It's to set up the mind-bending irony of an extermination camp commander telling one of the inmates not to get too close to him so she won't catch his cold.
- David Dunn's perfect health is a key plot point in Unbreakable.
- Also averted in 12 Angry Men. Juror #10 has a head cold. It's not a plot point or anything. He just has a head cold.
- David Sedaris expresses his annoyance with this trope in one of his essays concerning The End of the Affair. When the lead character coughs it's an indicator that she will be dead in 20 minutes; "It might have been different had Julianne Moore suddenly started bleeding from the eyes, but coughing, in and of itself, is fairly pedestrian."
- Perfect health has some significance in A Brother's Price; the fact that Jerin is healthy and his father and grandfather died of 'normal' disease and an accident, respectively, means that his genes are likely good. Men are rare in his world and negotiating marriage contracts is a tricky business; a family history of weak hearts and easy susceptibility to illness would lower his potential value.
- The Tortall Universe subverts this a couple of times.
- Protector of the Small: Kel is rarely sick, but she wakes up with a cold in this book. It annoys her for a few hours, but a healer burns it off for her and makes her drink nasty-tasting teas. Magical healers being pretty common in this world, minor sicknesses are usually ended as quickly as that.
- Provost's Dog: In the first book, Beka comes down with a nasty head cold. Her journal writing suffers as a result, with one brief entry about how she hates having to drag her sniffling, hacking, wheezing bum through duty. Unfortunately for Beka, her mage friend's healing expertise stops at brewing expectorants, so Beka suffers for the duration, but it clears up.
- Galaxy of Fear: Thirteen-year-old Tash insists that she's never been sick in her life, though her slightly younger brother has come down with things before. Might have to do with The Force. It's plot-important in The Planet Plague, when she gets infected with The Virus and it works far more slowly than expected.
Live Action TV
- In Stargate Atlantis, Sheppard is shown to have a mild cold at the beginning of the episode "Irresistible". This turns out to be of use to him as it makes him immune to the airborne chemical that has the rest of Atlantis under its spell. This of course brings up the question of just what would have happened if he hadn't had that convenient cold. Obviously, the Ancients must be watching over him.
- A subversion: in one episode, a character's abnormally perfect health (as in, she wasn't just not sick, it seemed she'd never been sick ever) is cause for suspicion.
- Avoided in the original Stargate movie (and early first season of Stargate SG-1) in which Daniel Jackson is stated to have allergies and he sneezes constantly.
- He mentioned once that he always sneezes when he travels. The movie-based novels turn this into the manifestation of a phobia caused by a childhood tragedy. Every incarnation of Dr. Jackson is The Woobie.
- Daniel Jackson also missed an episode because he had to have his appendix removed. Originally he was going to be in that episode, except Michael Shanks had to have HIS appendix removed and the writers apparently weren't feeling especially creative.
- In Smallville, Lex Luthor has the meteor-granted power of a superhuman immune system. Being Superman, so does Clark (the one time he gets sick, it's because he went into the Phantom Zone; however this illness causes him to develop his super-breath).
- Incidentally, Lex's super-immunity is also used to Hand Wave his baldness.
- Contradicted in the "Killed by Death" episode, where Buffy has a severe flu which is not directly life-threatening, but nearly makes her lose a fight. Her high temperature does make her able to see an otherwise invisible killer though.
- Played straight most of the rest of the time, though. And lampshaded and justified at the same time, within the same episode when it's mentioned that Buffy very rarely gets sick; the same magic that gives her super-strength and abnormal reflexes also boosts her immune system to increase the speed at which she heals.
- In iCarly a minor character named Jeremy is a subversion of this trope.
- More like an almost perfect inversion. He sneezes every few seconds, all day, every day (at least when he appears).
- Subverted on House where the main character occasionally has a cold, a headache or some other minor health issue without it impacting the plot.
- Parodied in a That Mitchell and Webb Look sketch with The Man Who Has A Cough And It's Just A Cough And He's Fine.
- Illya Kuryakin catches a cold about halfway through the The Man From UNCLE episode "The King of Diamonds Affair." ("I've been fighting a headache and a cold. Personally, I prefer THRUSH.") It's not important to the plot in any way, and it doesn't impede his later Big Damn Heroes rescue of Napoleon Solo; its only apparent purpose is to make him miserable. Russian Guy Suffers Most...
- Played for Laughs in the Babylon 5 TV movie River Of Souls. A Soul Hunter announces his imminent arrival at Babylon 5, and the command staff remarks that Soul Hunters only show up when someone is about to die. Zack Allen starts coughing, and is alarmed to see everybody staring at him as if he is about to keel over.
- In the "Sontaran Strategem"/"Poison Sky" two-parter of Doctor Who, Donna uses her Magical Temp skills to deduce that no one in the factory has ever been sick, which becomes the first sign that something is quite wrong.
- When Axl on The Almighty Johnsons gets sick, he does not think much of it initially. However, he is now the incarnation of the Norse god Odin and is not supposed to get sick. This makes his illness the equivalent of a Negative Space Wedgie. What seems like a simple cold ends up almost killing him and all the other gods lose their powers while he is ill.
- Averted in Breaking Bad when Walter White starts coughing blood, leading him to believe his cancer is getting worse, but it turns out it's an expected complication from his recent surgery.
- Sonic in Sonic and the Secret Rings has a cold in the very first cutscene and wishes for handkerchiefs. The cold is never referenced for the rest of the game but his first wish is referenced at the very end when he wishes for a mountain of them for Shahra due to her tears.
- A random man in Dragon Age II complains that "Qunari don't never get sick" (Word Of God is that this is due to better sanitation practices). While your companion Anders runs a clinic, the people there don't seem to be sick or injured - except for the already-dead ones to the side with sheets over their bodies.
- Not only does the titular Reality Warper in minus say that she's never been sick, but she doesn't seem to know what sickness is. When her friend explained that she had been absent from school because she was sick, minus made herself sick to see what it was like... and threw up. She then assumes that her friend likes to throw up.
- My Little Pony Rock Is Magic
- Carl Wheezer of The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron is an inversion of this.
- Macy of As Told by Ginger is an almost perfect inversion of this.
- Averted twice in South Park. Once in "The Snuke," where Kyle has a cold, and once in "A Very Crappy Christmas," where Cartman has a cold.
- Averted in one episode of ChalkZone, in which Rudy has the flu, and is home sick in bed with a fever, in the middle of July.