What is the right way to cough or sneeze?

Learning how to cough and sneeze the right way helps stop the spread of COVID-19, colds and the flu. Whakamātihetihe te ihu ki te tuke.

Key points

  1. Cough or sneeze into your elbow.
  2. If your cough or sneeze is messy, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue.
  3. Put the used tissue in a bin and wash your hands.
  4. Stay at home if you are coughing or sneezing. You may have COVID-19/mate korona.
  5. Phone your doctor or Healthline 0800 358 5453 to find out whether you should have a COVID-19 test.

What is the right way to cough?

Cough into your elbow. This keeps germs off your hands so you won’t spread them to other people and make them sick.

What if I have a bad cough and there’s phlegm?

Cover your cough with a tissue. Put the used tissue into the bin. Wash and dry your hands.

What is the right way to sneeze?

Sneeze into your elbow. This keeps bugs off your hands so you won’t spread them to other people and make them sick.

What if there’s a lot of snot (hūpē)?

Cover your sneeze with a tissue. Put the used tissue into the bin straight away. Then wash your hands and dry your hands.

What if I pinch my nose to stop the sneeze?

This can be dangerous, so don’t do it. The pressure can damage your eyes, nose, eardrums or throat.

Can I use a handkerchief instead of a tissue?

Handkerchiefs are more likely to spread germs than tissues are. Use tissues instead of cloth handkerchiefs. Put the used tissue into the bin straight away. Then wash your hands and dry your hands.

Learn more

The following links provide further information about coughing and sneezing the right way. Be aware that websites from other countries may have information that differs from New Zealand recommendations.    

References

  1. Snap, crackle and pop: when sneezing leads to crackling in the neck  BMJ Publishing Group, 2018
  2. The potential dangers of holding in a sneeze Healthline, 2019
  3. Is it better to use a handkerchief or a tissue? Science Focus  
Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team. Reviewed By: Merle Samuels, Ngai-te-rangi, Health Navigator cultural advisor Last reviewed: 12 Oct 2020