Cover your Cough

Students miss an average of 4.5 days a year to the common cold and adults working with those students miss an average of 5.3 days a year. About 80% of infectious diseases are spread by touch.

Why should I cover my mouth when coughing?
It is very common for colds and other infections to be spread from one person to another by the germs expelled when a sick person coughs or sneezes. The common cold and flu are spread when you sneeze and cough or when you touch your face and then touch other objects. Germs can be spread over 100 square feet and the average sneeze blows at 100 mph. Covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze with your elbow or a tissue will greatly reduce the number of germs that are able to get into the environment.

What is the proper way of covering my mouth when coughing?
Covering your cough is not hard but there is a wrong way and a right way. The wrong way is by putting your hand in front of your mouth to cover your cough. When you cough into your hand, the germs will then spread to everything you touch with your hands.

The best way is to cover your cough is by using a tissue and cough into and then immediately throw it away. It is advised to wash your hands or use a hand sanitizer to make sure there are no germs on your hands.

If there are no tissues around, the second option is to cough in the inside of your elbow. The germs from your mouth end up on your sleeve, which is less likely to have contact with other people and those germs will soon die if they are not passed along to another person.

How do I stop the spread of germs if I’m sick?
Hand washing is the main way to prevent the spread of germs. If soap and water are not convenient at a certain time, it is advised to use a hand sanitizer. The steps in washing your hands include:

  • Wet your hands with warm running water and apply soap
  • Rub your hands together and scrub them well
  • Continue rubbing your hands together and sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice
  • Rinse your hands well under warm water
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry

How can I stay healthy?
There are multiple ways that you can stay healthy through the winter months.

  • Get vaccinated for Influenza (flu) and pneumococcal (pneumonia)
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand cleaner
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick

Dr. Michael Burt is a physician at Riley Physicians Pediatrics, a partner with IU Health Ball Memorial Physicians.  For more information, please contact 765.288.1995 or visit