The Elbow Thing

I though it was a joke about sneezing into elbows but now it seems even billionaires do it. From Illinois governor Pritzker:

There’s a reason we’re raised to cover our mouths or use our elbows when we cough and sneeze. It’s a simple gesture to reduce the number of germs you spread to those around you.

I’m really into sneezing but when I do it, I bring both hands to my face and cup the nose with them.

Is the elbow thing cultural? Does anybody else find it bizarre? Are you supposed to walk around with snot on your clothes after you do it?

10 thoughts on “The Elbow Thing”

  1. Cultural. Sneezing into one’s elbow is normal in Sweden, while sneezing into the hand is normal in the Anglophone country I come from. When I first caught myself sneezing into the elbow after a few years here (without having considered changing my habit consciously) it was a bit of a shock. Now I do it all the time even when I’m not here.


  2. I’m not aware that the elbow thing is cultural, it’s new to me too. The idea is to catch the viruses before your sneeze expels them into the air. Elbow works, so does a mask, handkerchief or Kleenex. Sneezing into your hands is only hygienic if you can wash your hands immediately afterwards, before you touch anything else, because the virus could be all over your hands.


  3. Do you shake hands much as a greeting?

    I’ve been elbow-sneezing for at least a decade now, to the point where I can’t even remember when I started doing it. I remember it having to do with someone telling me that I’ll spread germs more when I shake hands, and being provided what felt like a reasonable alternative.

    Don’t do snot sneezes into it, though, that’s what handkerchiefs or tissues are for.


  4. I remember back in my childhood when Americans would routinely carry cloth hankerchefs in their purse (women) or back pants pocket (men) to sneeze into. Apparently that’s no longer a custom.

    Whenever I leave my house, I always carry a small pocket pack of Kleenex tissues in my right rear pants pocket. They’re handy for sneezing, wiping away watery eyes if something irritates them, etc.

    Nowadays Kleenex tissues will also work if you run out of toilet paper. (Kleenex tissues can safely be flushed down the toilet; paper towels will clog the plumbing.)


    1. I spent my childhood ironing handkerchiefs on 6 sides. And those who don’t know why it’s 6 sides shouldn’t talk to me about handkerchiefs.


      No, really. It’s 6 sides.


  5. Placing bacteria and viruses on your hands and then using the hands to open doors or greet someone is a problem. This isn’t cultural, it’s a matter of health.


  6. I first started doing it over a decade ago, when teachers at our kids’ elementary school told parents that they encouraged students to cough and sneeze that way to reduce the spread of cold germs.


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