Respiratory and cough hygiene

Respiratory and cough hygiene is designed to minimise the risk of cross-transmission of known or suspected respiratory illness (pathogens):

  • cover the nose and mouth with a disposable tissue when sneezing, coughing, wiping and blowing the nose; if unavailable use the crook of the arm
  • dispose of all used tissues promptly into a waste bin
  • wash hands with non-antimicrobial liquid soap and warm water after coughing, sneezing, using tissues, or after contact with respiratory secretions or objects contaminated by these secretions
  • where there is no running water available or hand hygiene facilities are lacking, staff may use hand wipes followed by ABHR and should wash their hands at the first available opportunity
  • keep contaminated hands away from the eyes nose and mouth.

Staff should promote respiratory and cough hygiene helping those (eg elderly, children) who need assistance with this, eg providing patients with tissues, plastic bags for used tissues and hand hygiene facilities as necessary.

Further information can be found in cough etiquette/respiratory hygiene in the hospital setting literature review.

Manual contents

Chapter 1: Standard infection control precautions (SICPs)

Chapter 2: Transmission based precautions (TBPs)


Download a PDF copy of the National infection prevention and control manual for England