Tell Me More: Respiratory Etiquette

Public Health 101

26 Jan 2023

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, everyday infection prevention measures have been placed in the spotlight as important ways to help prevent the spread of the virus. Respiratory etiquette is one of these prevention measures.

What is respiratory etiquette?

 Respiratory etiquette is a fancy way of describing the simple everyday actions everyone can take to limit their risk of spreading respiratory viruses. These personal practices primarily consist of covering your coughs and sneezes, regular and thorough hand cleaning, and staying home and keeping to yourself when you are sick.

Respiratory etiquette is a simple yet effective way to prevent illness, and is comprised of a few easy steps:

  • Cover your cough and sneeze. Turn your head away from others and cover your mouth and nose with a tissue. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands. Discard tissues immediately after use into the nearest garbage can.
  • Practice effective hand hygiene. Thoroughly clean your hands with either soap and water or alcohol based hand rub regularly, especially after coughing or sneezing.
  • Wear a mask to protect others. When you are sick, wearing a mask can help to prevent the spread of germs and viruses that make us ill.
  • Environmental cleaning. Some important ways to help prevent the spread of germs are cleaning and disinfecting high touch surfaces and general cleaning of shared spaces.

Importance of respiratory etiquette

According to Statistics Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada, respiratory infections such as influenza and COVID-19 are ranked among the top 10 leading causes of death in Canada. Nationally, respiratory infections such as influenza cause 12,220 hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths from annually. In 2020, COVID-19 became the third leading cause of death in Canada, accounting for 5.3% of deaths. Many respiratory infections can be prevented with the implementation of infection prevention and control measures, and everyday practices including respiratory etiquette.

We all have a role to play in preventing the spread of germs and viruses to keep both ourselves and our communities safe and healthy.

For more infection control and prevention tips, visit our website.

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Published 26 Jan 2023