How to Cough and Sneeze Properly in Public

by Carol Poster

Imagine that you are walking along a beach with your romantic partner. As the sun sinks toward the horizon, you gaze soulfully into each other's eyes, lean together -- and then one of you sneezes. As well as completely ruining the romantic atmosphere, the sneeze can have health consequences. The fine water droplets you spray in the air when you sneeze carry any viruses or bacteria you harbor, ranging from the slightly annoying common cold to more serious infections such as tuberculosis.

Avoid People if Possible

The best way to avoid spreading germs when you cough or sneeze is to stay home when you're sick, especially if you have flu-like symptoms or a fever. If you do need to go out in public, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing a surgical mask or staying at least 6 feet away from other people.

The Right Way to Sneeze and Cough

Coughing and sneezing in public are etiquette and public health issues. At formal events, excuse yourself and head to the restroom, or at least turn away from other people and food service areas before sneezing or coughing. If possible, use a disposable tissue to cover your nose and mouth, and then dispose of the tissue and wash your hands with soap or hand sanitizer. If you don't have tissues, sneeze into the part of your sleeve covering the inside of your elbow rather than your hand, because the fabric soaks up the germs and prevents them from spreading. If you are wearing a short-sleeved shirt, use the fabric covering the inside of your upper arm.

About the Author

Carol Poster began writing professionally in 1974. Her articles have appeared in "Outdoor Woman," "Paddler," "Ski Magazine," "Women's Sports & Fitness," "Dance News," "Show Business," "The Athenian," "PC Resource" and "Utah Holiday," among other publications. Poster holds an M.F.A. in creative writing from Eastern Washington University, as well as a Ph.D. in English from the University of Missouri.

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