What is “respiratory hygiene” and why do you want to practice it?

We all know about telephone etiquette and how to mind your manners in a work meeting (step 1 – stop looking at your phone!) but what about respiratory hygiene?

Respiratory hygiene is essentially a rather formal way of saying “be careful how you cough”. It might be a new buzzword for 2020 but it’s certainly not a new concept. We all know it’s never polite to cough on someone. However, these days it could also save a life. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic currently sweeping the globe, never before has it been more important to practice cough etiquette. Many don’t realise that the droplets released from an infected person’s cough or sneeze can travel for several feet. It could easily reach the mouth, nose or hands of someone close to them – or land on a surface where the virus can survive for several days. Yep, that’s correct! Scientists have now discovered that the virus can remain alive on different kinds of surfaces. On cardboard, it can hang around for up to 24 hours. On plastic and steel, it can keep on trucking for up to 72 hours! Suddenly, your Facebook friends wanting to rinse their groceries in the sink doesn’t seem so crazy after all!

Keep your distance

So, if coughing now has potentially deadly consequences, is there anything we can do about it? This is where respiratory hygiene comes in. If you feel like you need to cough or sneeze, you’ll need to do just that, but be very mindful of those around you. Put as much distance as you can between yourself and others the moment you feel the reflex coming on. Move away. Turn your head. Remember what we said about those far travelling droplets!

The other way to avoid becoming a potential virus-spreader is to always carry tissues on you. That moment you feel a cough or sneeze coming on? Whip out a tissue, place it over your mouth and immediately discard it when you’re done. This is preferable to the “elbow method” – coughing or sneezing into the crook of your elbow – when you’re in a pinch. Also, if you’re ill or prone to coughing, it goes without saying that, when you’re around others, it’s best practice to wear a mask.

Flatten the curve

As coughing and sneezing are such reflexive things, it’s not exactly something you can stop doing. But if you practice good respiratory etiquette, you can play your part in preventing the virus’ spread. Another way to help flatten the curve is to regularly wash your hands. Medical scientists say there’s no real evidence that anti-bacterial soap is any better than regular soap. In this case, you might as well splurge on something luxurious with a beautiful, calming scent. Our top tip to help prevent it from becoming mushy is to toss your soap dish and store it on a slotted soap rack. This will help it dry after use so that every time you pick it up it’s still a sensory treat.

Last but not least, another way to reduce transmission is to simply stay indoors as much as you can, regardless of your country’s lockdown regulations. Suddenly, saving the world becomes as simple as sitting on your couch.