June 2020

If You Don’t Have a Mask…

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While wearing a mask is now mandated in many places or at least strongly recommended, there are still times where patients or passersby won’t be wearing them and won’t be practicing good cough hygiene. What to do then? Retired geriatrician Fredrick T. Sherman, MD, MSc, (and former Medical Editor of the journal Geriatrics) offered his 3-step technique for warding off the flu and other respiratory illnesses during nearly 40 years of practice.

“Every time I hear or see someone cough or sneeze near me, I quickly do the following 3 maneuvers in rapid sequence:

Exhale: First, I slowly begin to exhale, preferably against pursed lips. Exhaling prevents the inspiration of any droplets and breathing out against pursed lips increases the time it takes to exhale fully, thus allowing me a longer time to physically remove myself from the immediate vicinity of the infected droplets. Never inhale first, as this may bring respiratory droplets into your upper and lower airways.

Look Away: Second, while continuing to exhale, I look away from the person who has coughed or sneezed. Then…

Walk Away: Third, while continuing to exhale, I walk away from this person if possible. If you can’t walk away, at least you have “looked away.”

I have trained myself to do these 3 maneuvers quickly, both indoors, such as in subway cars and buses, and outdoors, think crowded streets. Performing this technique has played a part in my remaining free of viral respiratory illness during most of my career.”

Source: Sherman FT. Learning to EXHALE. Don’t catch the flu this season! Geriatrics. 2008;63(10):2-3.

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