Ways to Prevent Infection
Cover Coughs and Sneezes
Colds, influenza and many other respiratory viruses and bacteria can spread by direct and indirect contact with large respiratory droplets.
- Direct contact occurs when large respiratory droplets are expelled by sneezing, coughing or talking and come into contact with another person’s mucous membranes (eyes, nose and mouth). This can happen if within one to two metres of a person who is ill with an infectious respiratory illness. Droplets can also fall onto surfaces e.g., keyboards, tables, telephones. Respiratory viruses can live on objects and surfaces from several hours to a few days.
- Indirect contact happens when we touch these contaminated surfaces with our hands and then touch the mucous membranes of our eyes, mouth or nose. One can become exposed directly or indirectly however there are preventative things that can be done.
Covering a cough or sneeze is a preventive strategy to contain respiratory secretions and prevent the spread of respiratory infections directly and indirectly to others.4
How to prevent bacteria or viruses from reaching others
Any of these actions will help prevent the spread of illness to others:
- Cover your cough or sneeze by using a facial tissue, immediately disposing of it into the garbage followed by washing your hands at a sink with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub.
- If a tissue is not available, cough or sneeze into your elbow/sleeve.
- Turn away from people around you when coughing or sneezing.
Promote covering coughs and sneezes
Educate staff, students/children about “covering your cough or sneeze” by:
- Demonstrating how to properly dispose of used facial tissue into the garbage and immediately performing hand hygiene.
- Demonstrating how to cough or sneeze into your elbow or sleeve.
- Encouraging others to do the same.
Schools should provide adequate supplies of hand hygiene products, facial tissues and garbage cans.
Resources and related links:
- CDC posters (multiple languages) Cover Your Cough
- MOHLTC – Red Cross Bug Out Get the Facts on Germs (PDF 4.6MB)
- Peel Public Health Cover Your Cough or Sneeze
- ORL video “Why Don’t We Just Do It in Our Sleeves?”
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