"Cover your mouth!"
My mother's reprimands still ring in my ear every time I get that tickle in my nose indicating an inevitable sneeze or when I feel like I'm hacking up a lung courtesy of the latest bug – and rest easy, I do.
"You should sneeze into a tissue or paper towel," James Mamary, MD, a pulmonologist with Temple Lung Center at Temple University Health System told WebMD. "If you don't have those with you, you can sneeze into the crook of your elbow. Just make sure you put that clothing into the wash at night."
It turns out the most routine and habitual way of using your hands to cover up isn't the best choice when dealing with your respiratory issues. I don't know which is more aesthetically appealing, watching the person you're sharing a seat with on the train sneeze into their hands or violently onto their sleeve.
The CDC lists the flu and other serious respiratory illnesses like respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), whooping cough and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) as being spread by cough, sneezing or unclean hands.
They reiterate the best method saying, "If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands."
Perhaps you're too embarrassed to sneezein general when in the public's eye so you opt for the third method – holding it in. This may be the sexiest way to sneeze, but it's also the worst option and can cause some real health problems.
"I wouldn't recommend suppressing a sneeze by any method, whether by pinching one's nose or consciously sneezing into a closed throat," Alan Wild, a head and neck surgeon and assistant professor of otolaryngology at Saint Louis University School of Medicine said to LiveScience.
Although the injuries that can occur may be major flukes, a held sneeze can cause damage to the diaphragm, break a blood vessel in the eye, rupture an eardrum leading to vertigo or hearing loss, or even force a blood vessel in the brain to explode due to elevated blood pressure.
So Mom, it turns out when the 5-year-old me was sneezing and wiping my nose with my sleeve, I was actually doing it right the whole time.