Please Don’t Use Your Hands
The standard American greeting comes with a handshake. We open doors with our hands. We eat with our hands, touch our faces, and share everything from pens to computer keyboards. That's why I'm so grossed out when people sneeze into their hands. This is not just a distant memory from elementary school or an observation while riding on Muni. I've seen it happen all around me on campus: sniffling faces and knuckles dragging across noses. Then there's the inevitable sneeze - a loud and forceful eruption of saliva and mucus droplets - usually followed by a chorus of “bless yous.” Some of us need a refresher on sneezing etiquette.
First, if you are really sick, stay at home! That way, in the safety of your own abode, you can sneeze any way you want to. You can get creative and do a 360-degree sneeze and not pose a risk of infecting anyone else (unless you have roommates, of course). If you are around other people, then the acceptable thing to do is to sneeze into your arm. More specifically, do it into the inside crook of your elbow or into your bicep. That way, the particles get trapped into your clothing and not ejected into the air.
I've seen variations of this technique, including sneezing into the inside of your shirt or armpit... whatever acts as a convenient barrier is fine. If you forget and end up sneezing into your hands, that's OK, but don't pretend as if everything you just unleashed into your hands magically disappeared. Wash your hands right away! And if that is not feasible, then use a squeeze of some hand sanitizer. With these quick tips, not only will you help stop the spread of germs, but you'll look classy doing it. –From an article by M. Mandap, Synapse, UCFS, 2011
Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia