What are the steps for cough etiquette or respiratory hygiene?

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 mainly transmits from person to person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 mainly transmits from person to person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 mainly transmits from person to person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs, transmitting the disease. In the absence of an effective vaccine, respiratory hygiene is a critical preventive measure that can be used to control the spread of the infection. 

What are the different ways to maintain respiratory hygiene?

Here are a few ways by which you can practice respiratory hygiene and avoid spreading the infection, in case you are sick or otherwise:

  • Cover your mouth
    • Always cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough. 
    • The best way to cough or sneeze is by covering your mouth with your bent elbow in order to save your hands from becoming contaminated. 
    • Avoid contaminating your hands as you are likely to touch other surfaces with your hands and can contaminate other objects that come in contact.
    • Avoid using a cloth handkerchief to cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing as it becomes a breeding place for bacteria and virus.
  • Use tissues
    • Using tissues is a better option than handkerchiefs, as tissues can be used and thrown, thus preventing the bacteria or virus from spreading. 
    • Always carry some tissues with you whenever you are going outside home. 
    • Sneeze or cough in the tissue and try to step away from people while doing so if they are nearby.
    • Dispose of tissues immediately and safely in a garbage bin, ideally with a closed lid.
    • Do not leave them lying around for other people to pick up and potentially become infected.
    • After throwing away used tissues, always wash your hands with soap or use a sanitizer to wash away any dirt or germs.
  • Maintain social distance
    • Whenever someone coughs or sneezes, a few droplets escape their mouth or nose which might contain the virus. 
    • If you are standing close to that person, you might contract the virus as the droplets may fall on you, and get into your body via the mouth, eyes or nose.
    • The best way to avoid this situation is to maintain a distance of at least 1 meter from anyone in a crowded place. 
    • If you know you have any kind of flu or cold, make sure to sit as far away from others as possible and avoid going outside. 
  • Avoid touching mouth and nose
    • Our hands touch a number of surfaces throughout the day. 
    • We unknowingly touch our face, rub our eyes, chew on fingernails and touch our nose with unwashed hands multiple times a day. 
    • In order to protect yourself from COVID-19, you should consciously avoid touching your mouth, nose or eyes. 
    • Wash your hands at regular intervals throughout the day. 

Conclusion

While research and trials for a COVID-19 vaccine are in different phases of development, following the steps for good respiratory hygiene is a precaution and preventive measure that all of us can do to protect ourselves as well as from spreading the infection to others. 

Special thanks to Dr. Aruna Muralidhar(MD, MRCOG (UK), FRCOG (UK), FICM) for the expert advice.

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