It’s been a year and a half since COVID-19 changed life as we know it. Essentially, the pandemic halted social events, business meetings, and leisure activities. Moreover, everyone went into lockdown due to the virus’s deadly effects. Since then, doctors, scientists, and governments across the globe have been desperately trying to curb the spread of the disease through a combination of pharmacologic and non-medical interventions. However, as vaccination drives worldwide continue their life-saving mission, cough etiquette and masks will continue to play a crucial role in ending COVID-19.
Cough etiquette consists of behaviors to prevent the spread of infection. These behaviors are critical at a time when a previously harmless sniffle can now be a cause of anxiety and stress. With these simple measures, you can easily do your part in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and protect others from getting sick.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue each time you cough or sneeze; if a tissue is unavailable, cough into your elbow.
- Never cough into your hands or open-air as this can quickly spread the virus, especially if you touch other objects afterward.
- Dispose of used tissues immediately.
- Wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer. The soap molecules break down the virus’ membrane, effectively destroying it.
- Avoid touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.
- If you are not feeling well, it would be best to stay home and rest. If symptoms persist, consult your doctor.
These measures, added to wearing a mask, can significantly decrease the chances of spreading COVID-19.
Masks used to be a symbol of the sick. You would usually only see those worn out in public by someone sick or by healthcare professionals at the hospital. Now, masks are a life-saving tool and a key component in breaking the chain of transmission of infectious diseases like COVID-19.
Research supporting the efficacy of masks is abundant. For example, one study demonstrated fewer droplets transmitted when wearing a mask than without one (Anfinrud, Bax, & Bax, 2020). Another study explored the effects of government legislation on face-covering in public and found a significant decline in the daily COVID-19 growth rate after legislators enacted a mandate to wear masks (Lyu and Wehby, 2020). Another study also supported this finding that wearing masks is associated with lower per-capita mortality from COVID-19 (Leffler et al., 2020).
Overall, it is difficult to deny the efficacy of wearing masks in public in this time of the pandemic. Moreover, any contention about this is a product of a lack of knowledge or based on outdated information. For example, officials did not immediately recommend masks when the pandemic started because there was insufficient research supporting their use in public. By contrast, later studies show face coverings do positively impact curbing the spread of the disease).
|How to properly wear your mask (World Health Organization, 2020):|
1. Wash your hands before and after you wear your mask.
2. Ensure that the face mask completely covers your nose, mouth, and chin.
3. Store your mask in a clean plastic bag when not in use. For disposal, wash your reusable cloth mask every day or dispose of a discardable surgical mask always in a trash can.
4. Do not use masks with valves.
|Photo by Lara Jameson from Pexels|
Make Cough Etiquette and Mask Wearing a Habit
We cannot say how long the pandemic will last, but we can each do our part in curbing its spread. Observing cough etiquette and wearing your mask in public (or even indoors, if you are living with a person who is at risk of getting sick) can effectively prevent transmission of COVID-19. As we navigate this new reality together, compassion and understanding will go a long way in ending the pandemic. We must all do our part, no matter how small or simple.
Check out these links if you want to learn more about coughing safely, wearing a mask, and research on mask efficacy. Here find the ultimate smartphone app for cough tracking – stay aware of your coughs.