It’s normal to sneeze: It’s the body’s natural reflex to an invader—whether pollen, cat hair or a virus that leads to the common cold—in your nose linings. No matter the cause, your sneezes spread germs, and it’s best to catch them the correct way to prevent spreading illness. We here in the depths of the Texas A&M University Health Science Center newsroom test out the best way to catch a sneeze.

With no barrier—How rude

Sneezing with no hands won’t just embarrass your parents, it’ll likely shoot germs over 10 feet to other surfaces, where they can live for weeks until someone comes in contact with them. It makes you rethink grabbing that subway rail or grabbing magazines in a waiting room. Be sure to have some antibacterial wipes handy.

Using your hands—Your evolutionary germ-catcher

While this is a good way to keep germs from spraying all over the place, it’s almost counterproductive if you don’t scrub your hands clean afterwards. Sneezing in your hands is a good way to spread germs to your computer, phone, doorknobs—or someone else if you shake their hand.

If you catch yourself using your hands to barricade the germs, be sure to wash your hands with soap, friction and warm water for at least 30 seconds. Using hand sanitizer doesn’t substitute for good old hand washing.

Using your sleeve—The “vampire” method

Using your sleeve is a good way to cover your sneeze with smaller risks of contamination. Although it isn’t the best way to keep germs from traveling, some experts suggest it is better than using your hands because you are less likely to touch surfaces or other people with your sleeve than you are with your hands. Just be sure to cover your nose and mouth.

Use a tissue—Tried and true

If your allergies have been acting up, or if you’re battling the flu or a cold, then you may want to keep some tissues nearby, if not for your sake, then for everyone else’s. Using—and then throwing away—a tissue is the best way to keep germs from spreading like wildfire. Be sure to wash your hands afterwards for good measure.

— Dominic Hernandez

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