Ever noticed how a whole section in your office or a huge part of your kid’s class seem to have cough and cold at the same time? We usually attribute it to the weather, the air conditioner, the ice cream that they had or something else. However, if you trace the history of the cough episodes in a group, you will see that it all started with just one or two people. And they happened to infect the rest of them, thanks to their negligence.
How does cough spread?
Every time we cough, there are droplets being released into the atmosphere. Even when we cover our mouth, the droplets rest on our hands and go on to infect the things or people we subsequently touch.
So how can we prevent it from being transmitted?
Dr Gyanshankar Mishra, renowned pulmonologist practising in Nagpur and a member of the European Respiratory Society, and Dr Mandar Kubal, director at the Infectious Diseases & Pulmonary Care Pvt Ltd, give us some tips.
In a country like ours, the biggest challenge in preventing the transmission of cough lies in educating people about the ways in which it can spread from one person to the other. In order to prevent cough from spreading to others, people need to learn the concept of cough etiquette. ‘There is lack of awareness about the concept of cough hygiene and cough etiquettes. People seldom take rest for episodes of lower respiratory tract infections like cough and cold, and continue their normal routine activities. They thus end-up spreading the infections to more number of people around them,’ says Dr Gyanshankar Mishra.
He advises people to cover their nose and mouth with elbows when they cough. ‘Ideally a person with cold and cough should wear a mask to prevent the transmission to others,’ recommends Dr Mishra.
Dr Mandar too gives some pointers to prevent the passing of cough germs. He says, ‘While coughing or sneezing, always use a tissue or a handkerchief. If you are using a handkerchief, use a separate one for coughing and do not use the same to wipe your hands or face. Discard the used tissues in a separate container and never leave them lying on your desk or table at home or office. Also, do not touch surfaces at your workplace or home before washing your hands as you may spread the germs to your colleagues or family.’
In addition to this, he further advises to always wash hands thoroughly with running water and soap for 30 seconds after coughing or handling a tissue. If water is not available, it is a good idea to carry an alcohol based hand sanitiser for the same. They are easily available in a pharmacy or departmental store.
Most people also transmit the illness while travelling to their workplace by means of public transport. In order to curb this, here’s what he suggests. ‘If you are in a crowded place or travelling in train or bus and cannot use a tissue, turn your head away from other people and cough into your upper sleeve, never into your palms,’ he says.
Every time a person with an infection coughs – even if he or she covers the mouth with a handkerchief or the hands – there is a strong likelihood of letting loose infectious organisms that can attack other people in the vicinity. People with a weakened immune system are especially prone to such air-borne infections.
How can one avoid ‘catching’ the infection from others?
When travelling, cover your mouth and nose with a scarf or tissue. And wash your hands as soon as reach your destination.
If someone in your house is down with cough, the chances of you catching it are higher. Keep some distance from the affected family member and avoid sharing clothes, utensils, etc with them.