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What Am I Supposed to Do If I Need to Sneeze While Wearing a Mask?

The etiquette isn’t all that different from what it was pre-COVID

Living in a masked world has brought about some social conundrums. On the one hand, I love that no one can see how profusely my upper lip sweats at even the mildest warm temperatures. On the other, I have literally no idea what anyone is thinking or saying at any time and generally can’t stand being in public. But I’m fine with the whole thing, obviously, though that might be because I’ve never had to sneeze while wearing a mask

Honestly — what are you supposed to do if you need to sneeze if you’re out and about with a mask on? Do you lower it? Does God laugh at my pathetic internal quarrels? 

Okay, so here’s the thing: Society hasn’t completely crumbled to the point where you’re expected to just entrap your wet sneeze within a paper mask on your face, but you obviously can’t just let that shit fly, either. As manners expert Thomas P. Farley explained for the Chicago Tribune, it’s okay to lower your mask to sneeze so long as you abide by the standards of sneezing you hopefully had prior to the pandemic. Specifically, you should be turning away from other people and sneezing into the crook of your elbow to prevent the dispersal of nose and mouth particles. Ideally, you will also wash your hands or use hand sanitizer immediately after. 

If for some reason you’re unable to properly remove your mask and physically shelter your sneeze, you’re gonna have to just bite the bullet and sneeze with your mask on. The thought of this alone should be reason enough for you to start keeping extra masks with you at all times. According to Farley, even if you have to sneeze with your mask on, you should still be doing the whole turning away and using your elbow thing. Assuming you’re only sneezing from allergies (if you’re sick, what the fuck are you doing out in public anyway?), your sneeze etiquette is largely a matter of optics rather than preventing the spread of COVID. Nobody wants to be exposed to your sneeze germs, especially now, and you should be demonstrating that you understand that as much as possible. 

You could also utilize tissues or a handkerchief to cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze, but again, you’re gonna wanna wash your hands or at least hand sanitize them afterwards. There are also few things grosser than seeing someone pull out an obviously-used tissue only to wipe it all over their face and put it back in their pocket again.

Honestly, the whole game of existence right now is just to try not to be completely disgusting. Abide by this thinking when it comes to sneezing. Yes, it’s okay to pull your mask down to sneeze so that you don’t have to marinate in your own respiratory phlegm, but you should absolutely be moving as far away from other people as possible while creating a shield with your body to prevent those particles from spraying on everything. This really shouldn’t be that different from how you sneezed in public before. Just use your noggin’, and again, don’t be disgusting.