The elbow sneeze must be abolished. There I said it. Comment at will. I get the point of the elbow sneeze — in theory. But it doesn’t work and I’m about to smack some kids with the outside of my sneezy hand if they don’t go back to sneezing and coughing into their own hands. Here’s why.
The Myth of the Elbow Sneeze
The way the elbow sneeze (or cough) is supposed to work is that you sneeze into your elbow instead of your hand, thereby saving the surfaces you’re going to touch on the way to washing your nasty germs form your grubby hands.
According to ABC News:
Over the past decade or so, schools and day-care centers around the country have gradually adopted the technique as a way to ward off colds, flu, whooping cough and other easily transmitted bugs. It's been replacing the traditional cover-your-mouth-with-your-hands-or-a-tissue approach that has long been considered the polite and most sanitary technique.
The problem is that it takes quite an effort to get your elbow close enough to your mouth to actually catch whatever it is that might be coming out. Try it. It’s hard. I’m on the yoga mat three times a week and it’s a stretch for me to touch my nose to the inside of my elbow. (Which isn’t really even your elbow is it? But we’ll save that for another day.)
The technique is recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics. The CDC even distributes posters demonstrating how to prevent the spread of germs.
The Reality of the Elbow Sneeze
What happens when a child attempts to sneeze into his elbow is that he actually sneezes over his arm, resulting in a spray of disgusting sneeze stuff that fans out in a pretty wide arch. (Sometimes landing on this very keyboard I’m using right now.)
I’m a numbers person. To me, it comes down to probabilities. I know that when my kids sneeze into their elbows instead of their hands, the germs are spread much further than if they sneezed into their hands and touched a couple of surfaces on the way to the sink. (But let’s be serious — most of that stuff is going to end up on their jeans anyway.)
Who’s with me? Let’s make signs. I want this elbow sneeze thing over with by next flu season.
Until then, I’ll be the one wearing a surgical mask around my house.