Don’t stifle your sneeze. But don’t let it go if you love yourself and your neighbor.

The distance germs travel when someone sneezes or coughs may be farther than you think. The average uncovered sneeze sends droplets about six feet, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But for smaller-size particles, it’s more like eight feet or farther because of a gaslike cloud that keeps them airborne, according to videos of sneezes, recorded and analyzed by scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

What’s more, a hearty sneeze can spew forth droplets at speeds of up to 100 mph, according to research from the University of Bristol, in England. Particles expelled in a sneeze or cough can carry germs for an array of infectious diseases — colds, the flu, chickenpox, measles and more.

To keep from spreading germs this way, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue whenever you sneeze or cough. If you’re caught without a tissue, health experts suggest using the crook of your elbow. That will keep the germs from becoming airborne and will keep your hands from getting germy. If you do sneeze or cough into your hands, wash them immediately with warm water and soap. Rinsing with water alone won’t kill germs. Or use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.

Bottom line: To prevent the airborne spread of germs, avoid close contact with anyone who’s sick. If you’re ill and likely to cough or sneeze, stay home until you’re healthy.

This piece was originally written by Linda Searing and published in the Washington Post.

But why is it dangerous to hold in a sneeze? Find out in this previous article.

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