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Is Coughing Contagious? How to Protect Yourself and Others

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Coughing is normal. Everyone and anyone can experience it. Unfortunately, not everyone knows how cough works and how to protect against viruses they might help spread.

This article aims to clarify when this bodily reflex should be considered as a warning sign for illnesses and how you can protect yourself from sickness.

Why Do People Cough?

Coughing is a reflex that forces air through the throat, followed by a short and loud noise. It is the body’s way of keeping the airways free of any irritating substances, be it mucus, phlegm, nasal drainage, dust, and foreign bodies.

Take note that the cough itself isn’t contagious, but a sign that something irritating is blocking the passage of air in the respiratory system. However, it can also become a means for spreading viruses and bacteria, especially if the disease is transmitted via airborne droplets.

This explains why people become concerned about people who cough. Of course, this doesn’t give anyone the excuse to ostracize a person who is coughing. After all, what is actually contagious are the germs spread through the cough and not the reflex itself.

 

5 Ways to Protect Yourself from Illnesses That Cause Cough

Cold-causing viruses spread from an infected person through close personal contact. This includes not only respiratory secretions that become airborne through sneezing or coughing, but also those that are spread through touch.

So instead of pointing fingers, it would be best to take the responsibility of protecting yourself and others from sickness. Here are five effective ways to do it:

 

1.     Make a habit of handwashing.

Whether or not you admit it, people often remember to wash their hands only when they are visibly dirty.

But this is not enough. After all, bacteria and viruses are microscopic, which means they can be present even if your hands look squeaky clean.

To make sure you don’t catch and spread pathogens, wash your hands frequently using soap and water. Practice the recommended 20-second hand washing technique and teach youngsters to do the same.

In case you don’t have access to soap and water, you can use a hand sanitizer with 60 percent alcohol to kill any germs present in your hands.

Although hand washing frequency may vary from one person to the next, it is a good idea to do so before and after meals, after using the toilet, and after coughing or sneezing.

 

2.     Practice proper coughing and sneezing etiquette.

If you’re the one who’s coughing, make sure you practice proper etiquette to protect other people from whatever is causing the reflex.

Covering your sneeze or cough is more than just good manners – it’s an excellent way to prevent the spread of germs, too. Avoid using your hands, though, as it could increase the probability of germ spread rather than lessen it.

Instead, use a piece of tissue to catch any droplets that may come with these bodily reflexes. This way, the viruses or bacteria in them won’t catch onto things you touch.

Make sure that you throw used tissue immediately after use. If you don’t have one, sneeze or cough into your elbow.

Also, you still need to wash your hands immediately after, even if you used tissue or a handkerchief to cover your mouth as you cough.

Remember to make all this a habit, even if it’s uncertain that the cause of your cough is viral. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

 

3.     Keep your distance.

If you have a respiratory infection, every sneeze or cough carries with them germ-filled droplets that can float into the air. Once another person catches these, they also catch whatever virus or bacteria you have.

 

This is why maintaining a safe distance from other people is another effective way of preventing the spread of diseases. This goes both ways: you should stay away from others if you’re feeling under the weather and avoid coming in contact with people who are ill.

If you’re the one who’s sick, stay home and away from school, work, and errands as much as possible. If you think someone is sick, limit your exposure to them.

 

4.     Avoid touching your face.

Although it’s nearly impossible to avoid touching your face, you must still make an effort to do so. Much like avoiding touching other people’s hands, this will also reduce the possibility of droplets getting transferred from hand-to-hand contact.

Don’t touch your nose, mouth, and eyes. If disease-causing pathogens find their way into your hands, touching your face will only make you more susceptible to the illness.

You can practice good hand hygiene to prevent this, though it will still be best to remove any possibility by not touching your face at all.

 

5.     Boost your immunity.

Aside from stocking up on dry or chesty cough medicine, you must also make sure that you have enough supply of vitamins and minerals. If you cannot eat your way into a stronger immunity, you can use supplements available over the counter to ensure that your body has what it needs to defend against viruses that cause cough.

Of course, you must remember that your very first line of defense would be a healthy lifestyle. Exercise regularly and eat a balanced diet. Following general good-health recommendations is still the best way to keep your immune system working perfectly the natural way.

Here are other healthy-living practices you need to heed to ensure that your immune system and entire body are protected from environmental assault:

  • Never smoke.
  • Always eat fruits and vegetables.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • If you must drink alcohol, drink in moderation.
  • Get enough good-quality sleep.
  • Practice infection-busting habits like frequent handwashing, cooking food well, etc.
  • Minimize stress and find time to unwind.
  • Stay on top of all recommended vaccines as they help prime your immunity and boost your defenses against infections even before they enter your body.

 

Always Be Prepared

There is no cure for common colds – only medicines that help ease symptoms.

So, prepare your cough tablets just in case, but try to prevent the sickness from its onset using the tips listed here.

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