What is the Best Way to Cough & Sneeze?

Remember being scolded by your parents as a child to “cover your mouth” when you coughed and sneezed? While they were not wrong for asking you to cover your mouth, they most likely expected you to do so by placing a hand over your it. You may have noticed over the years the amount of people suppressing their coughs in different ways, usually by using either their hands, a handkerchief, or the crook of their elbow. 

 So what is the best way to cover up a cough or sneeze? Does it even matter how as long you're covered? Many of us grew up learning one cough covering strategy or another, with most of us carrying this knowledge into adulthood. Well, we’re here to share the most effective way to cover up a cough or sneeze by taking a more in-depth look at the most popular methods and help you potentially decrease the spread of germs. We have four contenders, but which one deserves to be crowned Anti-Germ Spreader 2020? Let’s meet our contestants:


 Coughing & Sneezing into the Hand

Coughing and sneezing into the handCoughing and sneezing into the hand

This method is extremely common as many consider it the most polite way to mask a cough. You may have even been taught this growing up. In theory, it seems like a suitable option; Simply coughing into your hand would appear to accomplish exactly what you set out to do: Cover your mouth and keep those germs from reaching others…. Or does it?

 According to an experiment conducted by The Mythbusters, sneezing into your hand can blast the spray of germs up to 9.5 feet in front of you, plus leave you with a moist, germ-covered hand. That means everything you touch after sneezing will also become germ-ified! 

 Coughing & Sneezing in a Tissue

Mother and daughter coughing and sneezing into tissuesMother and daughter coughing and sneezing into tissues

An alternative to covering your mouth with your hand, this method incorporates the use of coughing directly into a kleenex, napkin, or handkerchief. The addition of this extra step must mean all the germs go into the napkin, not on the hands, making this option the true champion, right? 

 Not quite. In the Mythbusters study, sneezing into a tissue seems to keep all the spray contained to said handkerchief; however, further inspection proves the spray has actually penetrated the napkin, leaving the sneezer’s hand coated as well. That means more germ spreading!

 Coughing & Sneezing into the Inside of the Elbow

Coughing and sneezing into the elbowCoughing and sneezing into the elbow

In contrast to the other two methods, this strategy allows you to cough without the use of your hands. Simply place the elbow crease against your mouth to stifle any cough you see coming. Not coughing into your hands sounds great, but is it really a better option than the previous challengers?

 To put it simply: yes. Sneezing into the elbow stops the spray from going further than your arm and keeps the user’s hands sparkling clean to effectively minimize the spread of germs.

  Coughing & Sneezing Freely

Coughing and sneezing without covering the mouthCoughing and sneezing without covering the mouth

 NOPE. Always cover your coughs and sneezes!

The Winner?

The clear winner is: coughing into the crook of your arm! No gross wet hands or hankies involved, just a simple way to catch any “cough spray” and germs released during a cough or sneeze. 

Cough into elbow, not into the handCough into elbow, not into the hand

But you don’t have to take our word for it; watch The Mythbusters Team perform this incredibly fascinating test regarding the correct way to cover a sneeze below! The test involved the use of food coloring, dust, and a mat to measure how far the sneeze spray goes. See the hilarious and educational experiment here:



By keeping these results in mind next time you cough or sneeze, you can easily ensure you’re doing your part to keep yourself and others happy and healthy.


Not all cough-cloaking methods are created equal! Coughing (or sneezing) into your elbow is the ideal method for concealing a cough and keeping others shielded from your germs. Which method were you taught growing up? Tell us in the comments below!