It’s common knowledge that when you sneeze or cough in a public place you’re supposed to cover your nose or mouth. We’ve known for a long time that germs responsible for illness travel in droplets spread through coughs or sneezes, so it only makes sense to cover up to prevent the dispersal of germs. But only recently have medical institutions settled on a definitive solution: if you don’t have a tissue handy, sneeze or cough into your elbow, not your hands.
This cough and sneeze etiquette became a public health concern when SARS and H1N1 were making their debut, but at the time you might have been encouraged to cover your face with your hands. The problem there is that your hands go on to touch surfaces like door handles and other peoples’ hands so if you cough or sneeze into your hands, you’re likely to spread germs rapidly to others. Coughing or sneezing into the inside of your elbow is better since that part of the arm/sleeve doesn’t come into contact with as many surfaces. This movement is often called the Dracula cough for its resemblance to Dracula covering up with his cape.
And just in case you forgot, washing your hands is an important part of keeping yourself and those around you healthy!