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The best way to cover your sneeze or cough

Cover your mouth! But how?
Avoid spreading germs by covering your sneeze

It’s normal to sneeze and cough. Those are the body’s natural reflexes to oust an invader—whether everyday allergens or germs that cause respiratory illness. Although you’ve probably sneezed and coughed countless times in your life, this common bodily function has suddenly become an alarm bell for a major new global concern: COVID-19, a respiratory disease caused by the newest human coronavirus.

Sneezes and coughs spread all kinds of germs, and it’s best to cover them the correct way to prevent spreading illness. Headlines of the new coronavirus creeping its way across the globe is a good reminder that the best way to protect our communities from widespread transmission of illness is to practice good basic hygiene every day: wash your hands, avoid touching your face, avoid sharing beverages and utensils, stay home if you’re sick and cover your sneezes and coughs. So, what is the most effective technique for covering a sneeze or cough? We tested it out.

With no barrier—How rude

Sneezing or coughing 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 touching those elevator buttons or picking up magazines in a waiting room. Be sure to have some antibacterial wipes handy.

Using your hands—Your evolutionary germ-catcher

Although 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 or coughing 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 20 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 or cough 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, a cold or possible COVID-19, then 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.


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