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My family and friends all cough into their elbow rather than covering their mouth with their hand. They do so to save my husband’s life. Let me explain.
There’s talk every winter about not spreading coughs , colds and flu. Who hasn’t seen or heard the advice to cover coughs and sneezes to prevent spreading cold and flu germs? I have a special interest in infection control because my husband has chronic leukaemia which means that a cold or flu which might take most people a few days to get over can put him in hospital at best, or, at worst, kill him We meet up with many people who have weak immune systems, or live with someone who does. None of them can afford to take home a cold or flu either.
For years the advice on health posters has included a picture of a hand over the mouth and nose. Those posters make me feel like screaming because of the lack of commonsense in that concept. I have seen this on posters in buses, in doctors’ waiting rooms and in schools. A great way to spread germs to lots of people! Using that same hand to touch hand rails, money, hand grips, not to mention door knobs , ATM and eftpos keypads etc. will certainly pass on the germs to the next person to touch those things. Anyone who uses shared equipment such as phones, registers etc can infect the next user.
The absolutely best thing to do if you have an unexpected cough or sneeze is to use your elbow, shoulder or upper arm. You aren’t likely to use those to touch anything else.
A huge amount of germs have been found shared equipment or toys in classrooms and preschools so there is a risk to people like my husband in being around children. My darling grandchildren hear “cough in your elbow” not “cover your mouth” when they cough and are getting really good at remembering.
Providing everyone washes their hands when they get home my husband is pretty safe.

I wish there could be a campaign to spread the “cough into your elbow” message. After all, does anyone really want to catch a cold? Maybe some of the MoMs who read this could start a new trend in their area. If you would, you could be saving the lives of people you have never even met, but you would be as much of a hero to me as the people who donate blood to help strangers. Thank you.


Posted anonymously, 23rd June 2014


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  • Great advice, I also cringe when I see people cough or sneeze in their hands, and then just carry on doing what they’re doing without washing their hands or using alcohol gel. Not my favorite time of year that’s for sure!

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  • reading these stories are great

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  • Both my girls have been taught to cough into their elbows from programs at school.

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  • Yeah we all do this because if you cough into your hands you spread the germs way too easily.

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  • Thankyou!!!!! finally someone that agrees with people look at me funny when i say to my kids cough into your elbow!!! i do family day care from home and always teaching “cough into your elbow” technique my families also follow this now once i explained my reasoning they were like yes that makes sense thank you

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  • Have been brought up also to always cough/sneeze into my elbow, find it annoying when I don’t see others do the same lol. I think it would be brilliant to have some kind of campaign promoting this.

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  • My son had a accident and ended up with some nasty burns and was in hospital for over 5 weeks the doctors told us then that he was open to infection and we couldnt see him if we had colds or coughs and if we did have to sneeze or cough then to do so in our elbows or upper arm.
    At first we thought are you mad but when he explained just as you did about germs passing on things you touched once you sneezed or coughed into your hands since then we always do it into our elbows.
    P.S hope all is ok with your husband.

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  • I’m sorry to hear about your husband. Stories like yours make me feel like the blood and plasma I donate is all worthwhile. Not as many people are able to donate plasma so I do a bit of both. I have a couple of marks on my arm from having done so due to the gauge of needle they use but it’s all worthwhile. I also use my elbow when coughing or sneezing and I work in health. I sanitise my hands regularly at work and use the correct washing technique and do so as frequently as I can. There was a campaigne a couple of years ago that we had up about the spreading of germs and viruses during the cold and flu season and it was called Kung Flu. It basically instructed people to use the elbow method and other things that you spoke about. It a very important technique. I do it through instinct now after having got into the practice. I really think they should run this campaign again, as this year in particular I have noticed a lot of bad longer lasting viruses and common cold that linger. Thanks for your story.


    • The Kung Flu campaign sounds great!
      Thank you for donating blood and plasma Heidi. My husband has a blood product once a month to boost his immune system and it is through the kindness of donors that he gets this help. We are both very greatful.

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  • I actually do the same thing cough or sneeze into my elbow I never use my hands


    • Great to hear from you : )
      I hardly ever come across people who do this!

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  • Thanks ladies for your positive comments. I feel encouraged to start sussing out who to contact in the Health area and maybe in Education as well. That will be a start anyway xx

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  • Such an obvious and easy behaviour to change once you actually stop and think about it.

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  • Will start with telling my daughter who is a school teacher, so she can start the ball rolling at her school. Have you thought of approaching the department of health etc ..in starting a campaign or the like, as this really is a very sensible and important issue.
    If you need to cough or sneeze,
    drop your head into your elbow please.
    Keep your hands germ free,
    spreading less germs helps me.

    Sending the best of wishes to your hubby.
    Love and Light cherz.

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  • Thanks for that! I will definitely take that on board and will be coughing on my elbow instead of my hands. Never thought of it that way until now

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  • I’ve never really thought about it until reading this – so true! I’ll try to start a new trend :)

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  • This is certainly sound advise for the general public to follow also as the cross contamination our hands can do in public is frightening. It would be a great slogan or song title to educate children. I hope The Wiggles can take it on board & come up with a catchy tune “Cough into your Elbow”. PS. Special thoughts to your husband. XO

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