Mastering the etiquette of achoo

By Regence
September 13, 2023
sneezing into elbow

With COVID-19 cases trending upward in some communities, it’s only natural to wonder if every cough or sneeze we come across is a symptom of a highly contagious respiratory illness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says viral illnesses like the flu and COVID-19 are often spread by droplets created when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Practicing good etiquette is an important way to cut down on the transmission of germs and to help safeguard you and your loved ones.

Use the elbow shield technique

Gone are the days of sneezing into your hands; it's time to adopt a new approach — the elbow sneeze. If no tissue is available, sneezing into the bend of your arm can help prevent germs from spreading. This method is preferred because respiratory viruses can spread through handshakes, doorknobs and any other surface you touch with your hands.  

Hand hygiene helps

Washing your hands is one of the most effective ways to prevent yourself and your loved ones from getting sick. The CDC advises washing your hands with soap and water for a thorough, 20-second hand wash. If soap and water aren’t available, hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol can be used for on-the-go disinfection.

Test if you’re not feeling well

Test yourself for COVID-19 if you have symptoms or have been exposed to someone with a confirmed case. It's the responsible thing to do for yourself and those around you. Before buying new at-home tests, remember to check if your expired tests are still safe to use. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced recently that expiration dates have been updated on testing kits from a variety of manufacturers.

Continue healthy habits

The best way to bolster your defense against severe disease from respiratory illnesses like the seasonal flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and COVID-19 is to get vaccinated. An RSV vaccine is available for people over age 60, and flu vaccines are available now for those 6 months and up and an updated COVID-19 vaccine is expected any day. An RSV antibody shot is also available for infants younger than 8 months, entering their first RSV season and children 8 to 19 months who are at increased risk of severe RSV disease and entering their second RSV season.

Stay safe

Practice essential healthy behaviors such as avoiding close contact with people who are sick, staying home from work or school when you’re sick and wearing a mask if you’re in a crowded public setting and transmission levels are high.

We’re here to help

The flu, RSV and COVID-19 vaccines are covered with no out-of-pocket cost for most Regence members. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about getting vaccinated.

If you get sick and need care, call your doctor. Consider virtual care or an urgent care clinic before heading to the hospital emergency department (ED). EDs will cost you more and may be extremely busy so wait times could be long. Visit for help finding the right care option.