Proper Hygiene in Public Places

Proper Hygiene in Public Places

by Tina Hayes and Indigo Silva

The cold weather is upon us and with it comes the cold and flu season. For many of us, the holidays and cold weather go hand in hand. During this time of year many, people spend their time outside, shopping and visiting family and friends. But just because the risk of getting sick with acold is greater this time of year, doesn’t mean you have to stay cooped up in the house.

There is no official set of hygiene rules to follow, but the American Journal of Public Hygiene reports that the rules people are told to follow can be condensed into one, “do not swallow, inhale, or touch the discharge of others.” I know that’s a mouth full, but one way infectious diseases are transmitted from one person to another is by droplets that are expelled into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Here are some basic rules to prevent coming in contact with and spreading your own fluids.

  1. Cover your mouth or nose with a tissue when you sneeze. Turn away from people when you sneeze or cough.
  2. Put your tissue in a wastebasket immediately after use. Do not store it in your pocket or purse, this spreads the germs. Most importantly, don’t throw it on the ground.
  3. If you do not have a tissue, it is best to sneeze in your upper sleeve, anything other than your hands or the open air.
  4. Wash your hands with soap and water after coughing, sneezing or anything that has to do with bodily fluids. Soap and water is the best way to prevent spreading germs. If soap and water is unavailable, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60 alcohol to clean your hands.
  5. Don’t spit on the ground or out of a car window. Instead, use tissue or go to the restroom.

Using a public restroom is where coming in contact with germs is inevitable. If you make a mess, clean it up. The majority of messes in public restrooms exist because people are often inconsiderate of others and do not clean up after themselves. Be cautious putting anything on the restroom floor, such as handbags. Items placed on the floor can easily pick up germs. If you place your handbag on the bathroom floor, do not in turn put it on dining tables or bench tops to prevent the spread of germs.

When dining out, wash your hands upon arrival at the restaurant. Never blow your nose at the table or in the cloth napkins (turning your head is also not acceptable). Keep tissues readily available just in case you unavoidably sneeze. If you must use your cloth napkin to wipe your nose, ask for another one and take the used one away with you to dispose of later. Furthermore, do not leave your used tissue on the table for the wait staff to dispose of it.    

We all know handshaking is the standard greeting in America. This proper gesture can become awkward when you are experiencing cold symptoms or notice another sneezing and coughing before the greeting. When faced with this situation, politely excuse yourself from shaking hands by informing the person of the threat of spreading germs. Otherwise, proceed with the handshake, then discretely use a hand sanitizer or wash your hands as soon as possible.

Personal hygiene is the base of public hygiene. If you carry your good personal hygiene habits with you in public places, you lessen your risk of catching a cold. Following these tips to help prevent spreading germs and stay healthy this winter.  


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Tina Hayes is the founder and owner of The School of Etiquette and Decorum in Antioch, CA. As a passionate instructor dedicated to providing quality and professional etiquette training to her clients, Mrs. Tina Hayes promotes the awareness that social presentation and behaviors are important to be successful in today's society for all ages.