It never fails. It seems like it’s always the person standing right behind you in line who doesn’t take time to cover his or her sneeze. There’s an even a bigger ick factor if you feel the droplets hit your shoulder. It’s hard not to think of all the germs that have been transferred in that one moment. There are several diseases that are spread this way, including serious respiratory illnesses such as the flu, whooping cough and SARS. You can even get germs if you touch your face after touching contaminated objects!
Because this happens all too often, we decided to give some brief information on how to properly cover your sneeze and some basic precautions to keep you healthy. This will help you avoid spreading your illness to someone you love or someone standing in front of you at the check-out counter.
Don’t wait until you are sick to learn these hygiene basics. You’ll find that merely covering your sneeze is not enough—you have to properly cover your sneeze. The Centers for Disease Control offer these tips:
- Use a tissue.
This should be a no-brainer, but the important takeaway is to immediately throw away your tissue after you’ve used it. Don’t put it back in your pocket in case you have to sneeze again later!
- Sneeze into your sleeve.
If there’s no tissue available, sneeze into your sleeve or upper elbow. Don’t sneeze into your hands. This makes it far too easy to transfer your cold or flu to others, not to mention “re-contaminate” yourself, making it harder to get over a cold.
- Wear a facemask.
We’ll admit, it’s not a great fashion statement, but when it comes to protecting yourself and others, it’s a good idea. If you care for a loved one who is elderly or who has a compromised immune system, your cold or flu can have serious consequences. It’s best to be safe. A facemask has an added benefit for you: If you’re visiting a doctor’s office for a reason other than an allergy, cold or flu, a mask can help keep you healthy if others in the waiting room are coughing and sneezing.
- Wash your hands.
Okay, so technically this is not a way to cover your sneeze, but it remains one of the best methods for staying healthy and to keep from spreading germs to others. It’s so important, we had to place it on this list! After you sneeze, or if you’ve been in contact with someone who has sneezed, wash your hands. Believe it or not, most people don’t wash their hands long enough to get rid of germs. Wash them with warm soap and water for 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Be sure that the hand sanitizer you use has at least 60 percent alcohol.
- Stay at home.
Perhaps the simplest method of sneeze and cough etiquette is to stay at home when you’re sick. While you may think you’re a “go-getter” by coming to work when you are under the weather, your co-workers feel differently, no matter how well you cover your sneeze. If you don’t want to use sick days, speak with your employer about the possibility of working from home.
The same techniques you’d use to cover your sneeze are useful to cover your cough. A hacking cough is not only annoying, but like a sneeze, a severe cough can release germs that can make others sick. If you’d like some copies of a “Cover Your Cough Flyer” for your workplace (or even to drop a subtle hint to someone), all you have to do is visit the website for the Centers for Disease Control to download a PDF file that is ready to print.