By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer
From a young age, we’re taught to cover our mouths while sneezing; there’s no use in spewing neighbors with your germs and getting them sick, too. It’s such a common manner, people hardly ever ask: is this simple technique actually effective?
According to experts… sort of. Covering our faces before a whooping cough or a bellowing sneeze does seem to stop the majority of germs, but there’s still a chance one tiny particle will slip past our protective grasp.
“Researchers have seen that a fair number of respiratory particles still escape into the surrounding air, even when an barrier like a tissue, sleeve, hand, or surgical mask is placed in front of the cougher’s mouth,” said Dr. Nicole M. Bouvier, Assistant Professor of Infectious Diseases at Mount Sinai Hospital’s Icahn School of Medicine.
What’s even worse, is that the molecules that do escape are capable of hovering in the air for hours, patiently waiting to invade an unsuspecting nose. Short of carrying a bottle of Lysol disinfecting spray 24/7, the best way to prevent spreading germs is just to wash your hands as thoroughly as possible, and often. But! Did you know that just about everyone does it wrong?
According to a study from the National Institutes of Health, 95% of people don’t wash their hands right. Based on a different study conducted by Michigan State University, more than 50 % of men don’t even bother to use soap. So, if you really want to prevent the spread of germs, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds and scrub under fingernails and the backs of the hands.