It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Parenting Tip: Health and Hygiene

Public Service Notice: Learned from a fellow kindergarten teacher years ago while working for the Waterloo District Board of Education. (Thank you, Lois!)

If children cover their coughs and sneezes with their elbow rather than their hand, far fewer coughs and colds get passed around. Elbows are much less likely to come into contact with toys, doorknobs, and other children than are hands, and are just as easy to wash.

It made a huge difference in my classroom; I teach it to all my daycare tots – and now you know, too!

June 25, 2005 - Posted by | daycare, eeewww, parenting


  1. I actually learned this technique myself this past year. I feel a little goofy sneezing that way, but I’m a germophobe, so I’ll just keep doing it that way.

    Comment by ieatcrayonz | June 27, 2005 | Reply

  2. Don’t feel goofy! Every daycare person I know, and a lot of teachers train their kids in this. I’d bet your daycare lady knows this trick, too. You are not alone: There are hundreds of us out there!

    Comment by Mary P. | June 27, 2005 | Reply

  3. What ever happened to using tissues or washing your hands? I spent a year working in a hospital, so I wash my hands more than average. I suspect that daycare workers are also above average in the handwashing department.

    Comment by Simon P. Chappell | June 27, 2005 | Reply

  4. Simon: I wash my hands incessantly. I’m lucky to have any skin left on them.

    This tip is good for those times when a sink isn’t readily available, and it’s a good one for tiny tots, who generally can’t manage to get a tissue in place before the sneeze erupts, and who then smear (yuk!) long before you can drag them to a bar of soap. If it’s on their elbow, the worst place they are likely to smear it is their own hip. (Not doorknobs, toys, food, other children, my hair, the furniture, pencils, my clothing, my hands, etc., etc., etc.)

    Now that I think on it, it is also likely that this tip is particularly favoured by those who look after large groups of children, where it is much more likely that a cough or sneeze will happen out of arm’s reach of the caregiver, or where something else of even greater urgency has to be tended first. And by the time the adult gets their with first the tissue and then the soap and water, (because I always do both when it’s possible) the damage is already done.

    Comment by Mary P. | June 27, 2005 | Reply

  5. cool, I’ll teach him that too!!

    Comment by pluckymama | February 15, 2007 | Reply

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