Ask A Doctor: How Do I Sneeze Safely Right Now?

A UT Health San Antonio physician answers listeners’ questions about their health during the coronavirus pandemic.

By Michael MarksAugust 7, 2020 11:15 am,

In this week’s installment of Ask a Doctor, UT Health San Antonio physician Dr. Fred Campbell answers more of Texas Standard listeners’ most pressing questions about the coronavirus.

Can a desk fan blow COVID-19 respiratory droplets away from my workspace, if I work in close proximity to other people?

A fan can mimic an outdoor environment, where people are somewhat safer from the spread of the coronavirus. So, in theory, it might help direct droplets away from you if someone is talking or coughing nearby. But a fan wouldn’t take the place of a face mask or hand-washing. That’s because even with good air circulation, the virus can still spread in both indoor and outdoor spaces.

What’s the best way to clean surfaces that might have been exposed to the coronavirus?

Campbell said disinfecting cleaners are effective, but so is soap and water.

“Soap will actually make the cover of the virus disintegrate very readily,” he said. “There should be no reason why they couldn’t use soap and water as a disinfecting solution.”

If I have to cough or sneeze in public right now, what’s the best way to do it safely?

Campbell said directing coughs and sneezes directly into your elbow is the best way to minimize the spread of droplets that might have the coronavirus. It’s the same practice recommended for coughs and sneezes to prevent the spread of other illnesses. If you can’t cover it in time, you can direct it downward, toward your feet.

“You could do both, if possible,” Campbell said.

But exposure to coughs and sneezes means hand-washing and cleaning surfaces are all the more important.

Web story by Caroline Covington.

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