The Best Way To Cover Your Mouth When You Sneeze

While practicing good hand hygiene and cough and sneeze etiquette has always been important, it's now more critical than ever in the middle of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Sneezing is your body's natural reaction to clearing foreign matter out of your nose (via Healthline). It is also a method for spreading harmful germs, such as the coronavirus and influenza.

Droplets from a sneeze can be expelled up to several feet and can linger in the air and on surfaces long enough to infect others. In order to minimize the impact of a sneeze, you should cover your mouth. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is best to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and then throw the used tissue away. If a tissue is not available to you, sneeze into your elbow. Do not sneeze into your hands or into the open air.

Other ways to prevent the spread of germs

It's also important to wash your hands immediately after sneezing, coughing, or blowing your nose. In order to wash your hands properly, the CDC recommends wetting your hands with clean running water and scrubbing your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds. A good trick is to sing the tune "Happy Birthday" from beginning to end twice while doing so. Don't forget to scrub the back of your hands, between your fingers, and under your fingernails. Rinse your hands well with clean water and dry them with a clean towel.

When soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs on your hands but they do not get rid of all types of germs and should not be used as a substitute for hand washing if soap and water are readily available. Hand sanitizer also might not be as effective if hands are greasy or dirty.

Finally, if you're feeling sick it is important to stay home to prevent passing on harmful germs to others (via Cleveland Clinic). Follow COVID-19 restrictions and wear a face mask. This protects both yourself and those around you.