Masks + Sneezing: What To Do?
Happy Spring and happy spring allergy time. It is the time of the year when those spring allergies seem to affect most people to some degree, even if it’s a new extra sneezes or coughs from time to time.
A sneeze or cough in a time where we are concerned with the spread of a respiratory condition like COVID-19 raises etiquette questions on this sneeze-cough-mask dynamic. The big concern is with a sneeze or a cough; there is more force behind those respiratory droplets, more so than when we talk. The larger droplets fall to the ground quickly, but the smaller droplets stay suspended in the air longer. Add to that the extra travel force it received from the sneeze or cough can travel a greater distance. COVID can be spread by those who are unaware they are sick, so it can be a potentially dangerous setup to spread disease.
What do we do when we need to sneeze with a mask?
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has a section on their website that says to sneeze into your elbow trick or use a tissue. If you use the tissue, toss that out right away, and no matter what, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer right away.
While that may be what the CDC suggests, how we handle it we all know that is not going to fly with A LOT of people; here a story I did find on this issue from the Washington Post that addressed, in more detail, some of the ideas and questions I had.
The first thing is if you have to sneeze or cough, head outside if you can. Give yourself some space from others and a place for airborne droplets to go. If you are unable to get outside, try to step away from others.
If you do not have a tissue handy, you can use the sneeze-or-cough-into-your-elbow trick. But the droplets are now on your arm, so don’t hug anyone, so you might want to change as soon as possible.
You can use a tissue if you have one handy. Quickly dispose of the tissue in the trash.
You can always cough or sneeze into your mask. BUT make sure you have an extra one handy. You are going to want to change that out ASAP. If it’s a disposable mask, put it in the trash as you would a tissue, and if it’s a reusable mask, pop it in a bag and get it washed.
No matter what, after you sneeze or cough, you need to properly wash or sanitize your hands.
The last thing to accept is no matter how you deal with your spring allergies or sneezes with COVID; you will not make everyone happy. Just be ready, do your best and darn it…wash your hands!