Toronto Public Health says sneeze into your sleeve

With the cold and flu season upon us once more, Toronto Public Health wants Torontonians to forget about using their bare hands and sneeze with their sleeve.

A new campaign entitled, ‘Do the Sleeve Sneeze’, asks people to forget a common courtesy practiced from an early age. Toronto Public Health says covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze may not be the way to go if you want to avoid being sick.

Kim Auld, Health Promotion Officer for Toronto Public Health said it may take some getting used to, but doing the sleeve sneeze could lessen the transmission of many viral infections, such as the flu, if Torontonians take advantage of it.

“I think there is an instinct that people are captivated by, to cover their mouths whenever they cough or sneeze,” Auld said. “The practice we are now promoting is actually typical behavior in many places such as medical facilities. I don’t think it will be long before the general public catches on.”

Reaching the masses

In order to get the message out, postings have been placed in various areas around the city. Subway platforms, bus shelters, day cares, schools and hospitals are just a few of the locations are just a few examples.

Marilyn Bolton, spokesperson for TTC said having the ads around subway platforms and bus shelters makes sense considering the amount of people that use the TTC to commute.

“We have a large audience,” Bolton said. “Over 1.4 million people take the subway per day. If you want to get a message across to people, this is the way to do it.”

However, according to Auld, anywhere people are in close quarters such as subway cars make the spread of contagious disease highly transferable, if proper precautions aren’t taken.

“The fact that people touch things such as handle bars when they are commuting on subway, bus or street cars was definitely a factor in us displaying posters where most commuters would see them.” she said.

Keeping it clean

According to Bolton, TTC staff do their best to ensure riders don’t get caught with the flu bug.

“It’s important that things not only look clean, but are clean,” she said. “Torontonians like it this way.” Auld said cleaning agents are used to kill any germs left on poles or handrails. However, precautions are taken in the types of chemicals used, as to ensure the safety of riders.

Auld said targeting those who take public transit is the tip of the iceberg in Toronto Public Health’s campaign. In fact, she said anywhere in the city where people gather, the spread of infectious disease is very high.

She urges people to try and use common sense when sharing use of objects such as computer keyboards.

According to Auld, germs can stay on surfaces such as keyboards or a computer mouse for up to two hours. She says for this reason, hand washing is a must, and a reason the campaign also targets schools.

Although the message is relatively new, with the campaign launched only November 9, Auld said many people are starting to ‘get it’. “People just like saying it,‘ Do the Sneeze Sleeve,’ Ithink it’ll catch on because it makes sense,” she said.