Health Zone: Cough, sneeze in your elbow not handkerchief to stay healthy

Coughing or sneezing spread germs and diseases.  People have been used to coughing or sneezing into their hands or handkerchief, however medical experts have advised against this.

They say when people cough or sneeze, they should do so into the crook of the elbow or upper sleeve and not their hands. They advise that another option is to cover their mouth and nose with a tissue.

The experts  said the handkerchief can be a harbinger of unpleasant micro-organisms, and bacteria can multiply in them, while sneezing into sleeves helps stop germs from spreading.

According to Dr. Ezie Patrick C, handkerchiefs can “store the germs in your pockets and ensure continuous re-infection.”

He said sneezing into sleeves is one of the ways of improving hygiene and preventing diseases like pneumonia.

Dr. Patrick who is also the Publicity Secretary of the Nigerian Medical Association, Federal Capital Territory branch said the use of handkerchiefs was not a good cough etiquette in the prevention of tuberculosis.

“The current cough etiquette advocates that handkerchiefs should not be used by coughing individuals. Tissues are recommended as they are used and discarded. This is because the bacteria that causes TB is very reactive to sunlight and is rapidly destroyed in a matter of minutes when exposed to sunlight,” he said.

The physician said the correct coughing etiquette is to cough into a tissue which is promptly discarded or the inside surface of your arms.

Dr Patrick said: “The logic is simple, when you cough into a handkerchief the moist damp dark surface especially when put into your pocket is convenient medium for the bacterium to thrive and multiply. However, when you cough into your sleeves the bacterium is exposed to sunlight and they die immediately.”

Also Prof John Oxford, a virus expert in an interview with The Telegraph in the United Kingdom, said the traditional advice to cover the mouth and nose actually encourages the spread of disease because viruses are easily spread through touch.

Prof Oxford, who is of the Queen Mary Medical School London, said  that by sneezing and coughing into the crook of the elbow or the sleeve, those with colds can minimise the spread of germs.

According to him, ditching handkerchiefs in favour of disposable tissues also helps, but regularly washing hands with soap and water is most important.

“The new etiquette should be to cough and sneeze into your elbow. It breaks the chain of transmission and you must wash your hands properly and regularly. You should sing Happy Birthday twice over while washing your hands with hot water and soap, a quick squirt of cold water will not do it. The handkerchief can be a harbinger of unpleasant micro-organisms. Bacteria can multiply in them,” Prof Oxford stressed. He added that sneezing into a tissue is better, but germs will still escape.


About Delia Innoma

Delia Innoma is a prolific writer, promoter, artist manager with full professional proficiency in English, German and Igbo languages. She studied accounting and computer programming at the Institute of Management and Technology Enugu and Germany respectively. Delia is also a devoted mother of two and she founded the Diamond Celebrities Magazine. Her sense of responsibility and commitment to the Christian faith are essential forces driving her daily activities.

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