(HealthDay News) -- Viruses that cause the common cold or flu are spread in droplets produced when a person coughs or sneezes, a process the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls "droplet spread."

Virus- or bacteria-laden droplets also can spread disease when a person touches a contaminated surface, then touches their own eyes, nose or mouth, the agency says.

The CDC offers these suggestions to help prevent the spread of germs:

  • Always cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough. Try to sneeze or cough into a tissue instead of your hands.
  • Wash your hands often, and make sure you spend about 20 seconds washing them. That's about the time it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" twice, the agency notes.
  • Carry a bottle of hand sanitizer or hand-sanitizing wipes to wash your hands when you're not near a sink.
  • Teach children to follow these same practices.