Sneeze Into Your Elbow – How to Help Reduce the Spread of Swine Flu, Regular Flu and Colds

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Sneezing into your elbow has a great many benefits for helping to control the spreading of germs and diseases. Although many of us were taught as youngsters to “cover your mouth” when we sneeze, many medical authorities and organizations – including the Center For Disease Control (CDC) – are today advising against sneezing or coughing into our bare hands.

When you think about it, this really makes a lot of good sense. If you sneeze into your hands, it is very easy to pass those germs along to everything you touch. And consider all the things you touch in a day that can pick up those germs on your hands.

  • your computer keyboard
  • your computer mouse
  • door knobs
  • phones
  • food items
  • glasses and cups
  • shaking other people’s hands
  • your face
  • your kids
  • your spouse or partner

In fact, it’s almost impossible NOT to use your hands to touch something or someone throughout the day. Consider this work scenario that happens probably hundreds and thousands of times a day: You’re at work and zoning out a little in front of the computer. You’ve been fighting a little bit of a cold the last few days. Nothing serious, you’re almost over it. You suddenly feel a sneeze coming on and you frantically look for the tissue box. There it is, over on the other side of your computer. However, before you can grab a tissue through that narrow cardboard slit — the one with the aggravating rough edges — you sneeze. You automatically and obediently cover your mouth with your hand since your mom told you as a youngster that it was “rude to sneeze out in the open.” We don’t want to be rude and disappoint mom, do we? Now your hand is covered in a mist of germy spittle. So what do you? Wipe it on your pants, of course! Or maybe you’re extra special and take out the tissue from the box and wipe your hand on that. Think your hand is free and clear of germs now? Not a chance. Some germs can survive for hours on your bare skin.

So back you go to your computer, typing away at your keyboard and moving the mouse around. All the while your yummy little germs are getting passed from your spittle coated hands to the keyboard and mouse. Hmm…After that sneeze you’re a little thirsty. Take a gulp from your water bottle there next to your pencil cup holder. While you’re at it, you grab a pen so you can check off some numbers on a report you’re reviewing. More places for you to pass your germs. Water bottle and pen. Coated with germs. Now your co-worker stops by to ask you a question. So she says, “let me show you a problem I’m having with one of our websites.” She reaches over to type in the URL and moves the mouse over to click “Next.” Guess what just happened? All the germs that came out of your mouth and were transferred to your keyboard and mouse are now on your co-workers hands! While you’re pondering her question she takes out a stick of gum and pops it in her mouth. Now the germs have gone right from her hands into her mouth! And you wonder why she doesn’t show up for work the next day? It’s because she got your cold that you passed along to her from sneezing into your hands. It’s almost overwhelming just to think about all the ways in which you can spread your germs.

So what’s the better solution? What should we do instead of sneezing into our hands? If you don’t have a tissue handy, then sneezing into your elbow or upper sleeve is certainly one of the best ways to reduce the spread of germs. It is a LOT less likely for you to touch other people or objects with your elbow than it is with your hands. It is also a good idea to start teaching your kids early on that sneezing into their elbow is better than sneezing into their bare hands. Kids are notoriously tactile and touch everything with reckless abandon. Pick their nose, rub their eyes, grab that dirty football off the rug, wrestle with the dog, pick out some leftover chocolate from the back of their mouth. And that’s just the first 10 minutes in the morning. Think of all the other germs they’re either transferring to others or picking up from others. So do your part to help reduce the spreading of germs and diseases like the Swine Flu. Sneeze into your elbow!

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write by gene schuler