Respiratory Hygiene/Cough Etiquette

What is respiratory hygiene/cough etiquette?

These are infection prevention measures designed to limit the transmission of respiratory pathogens spread by droplet or airborne routes. The strategies target primarily patients and individuals accompanying patients to the dental setting who may have undiagnosed respiratory infections but also apply to anyone (including dental health care personnel (DHCP)) with signs and symptoms of illness. They were added to Standard Precautions in 2007 and emphasize two key elements:

  1. Implement measures to prevent the spread of respiratory infections from anyone in a health care setting with signs or symptoms.
  • Post signs at entrances asking patients with symptoms of respiratory infection to:
    • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
    • Use tissues and throw them away.
    • Wash your hands or use a hand sanitizer every time you touch your mouth or nose.
  • Provide tissues and no-touch receptacles for their disposal.
  • Provide resources for performing hand hygiene in or near waiting areas.
  • Offer masks to symptomatic patients when they enter the dental setting.
  • Provide space and encourage symptomatic patients to sit as far away from others as possible. Facilities may wish to place these patients in a separate area, if available, while waiting for care.
  1. Educate DHCP on the importance of prevention measures when examining and caring for patients with signs and symptoms of a respiratory infection.

For more information, including downloadable posters and resources, see CDC’s Respiratory Hygiene/Cough Etiquette in Healthcare Settings.


CDC. Basic Expectations for Safe Care Training Module 4 – Respiratory Hygiene and Cough Etiquette. Available at: Accessed May 8, 2018.

CDC. Summary of Infection Prevention Practices in Dental Settings: Basic Expectations for Safe Care. Available at: pdf icon[PDF – 1M]. Accessed March 31, 2016.

CDC Influenza (Flu) Resources for Health Care Facilities. Available at: Accessed March 18, 2016.

CDC Respiratory Hygiene/Cough Etiquette in Healthcare Settings. Available at: Accessed March 18, 2016.

Siegel JD, Rhinehart E, Jackson M, Chiarello L, and the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee. 2007 Guideline for isolation precautions: preventing transmission of infectious agents in healthcare settings 2007:1–219. Available at: pdf icon[PDF – 1M]. Accessed March 18, 2016.