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How to Cover Your Cough – Tips for Covering Your Cough and Sneeze

Woman coughing into elbow

Why Cover Your Cough and Sneeze?

Covering your cough and sneeze is one of the easiest ways prevent the spread of germs. Especially during cold and flu seasons, the last thing you want is to be the person who doesn’t know how to properly cover their mouths due to an imminent cough or sneeze. Or worse, being around someone with either of these symptoms who can easily spread their ailment to you! With a few simple strategies, you can practice hygiene etiquette to help prevent the spread of diseases and illness. In fact, serious respiratory illnesses such as the flu, whooping cough, or even severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) are spread by coughing or sneeze and unclean hands.i Knowing how to prevent these protects you and those around you.

How to Cover Your Cough and Sneeze

Covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze correctly is a simple way to help prevent the spread of germs in your community and those around you.

Follow these three methods to cover your cough, as directed by the CDC:

1) Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue. After you’ve used it, place it in a wastebasketii

2) If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or into your elbow to prevent the spread of particles. Do not sneeze or cough into your hands!iii

3) If you are suffering from a cough or bout of sneezing, wearing a mask is an excellent way to also protect the spread of germs.iv

After coughing or sneezing, it is also advisable to wash your hands. The CDC recommends to wash your hands often with soap and warm water for 20 seconds. An excellent trick to knowing how long 20 seconds last is to sing to the tune of Happy Birthday. If soap and water are not at your disposal, use an alcohol-based hand rub or sanitizer.v

Now that you know how to cover your cough and how to cover any sneezing, you're equipped with the most basic way to protect yourself and others from illnesses passed by germs. To keep learning, explore additional Robitussin resources on topics such as mucus and phlegm, cough heroes, and learn the differences between a cold vs. flu.


i. Coughing and Sneezing. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed 4.10.2020. Referenced text is in a red box in source PDF.

ii-v. Cover Your Cough: Stop the Spread of Germs that Make You and Others Sick. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed 4.10.2020. Referenced text is in a red box in source PDF.