Kiwis are getting better at covering their sneezes but almost half of us spray uncovered sneezes into the air, a new survey has shown.

A biennial flu hygiene survey commissioned by Kleenex and conducted by Colmar Brunton found 55 per cent of New Zealand adults always cover their sneezes, an increase of 19 per cent since 2013.

The survey also found 60 per cent of Kiwis knew the flu transferred most commonly by breathing in live infectious flu particles sprayed into the air from an uncovered sneeze or cough.

Virologist Dr Lance Jennings said that while improvements in both practice and understanding were good news, the bad news was that 45 per cent of Kiwi adults were still propelling live infectious flu particles into the air.


Worse than that was that 40 per cent of New Zealand adults still did not understand that by doing so they were putting others at risk of catching a virus that caused hundreds of deaths and thousands of hospitalisations in New Zealand each winter, he said.

The survey comes as safe sneeze lessons begin at schools and kindergartens around the country.

Sparkly green glitter will pretend to be icky flu virus particles on unwashed hands; bubbles will float in the air modelling make-believe flu droplets; and a mist of water, launched from a spray bottle, will land on children's faces like a wayward sneeze.

Children would be taught to trap it, bin it and wash it - trap the sneeze with a tissue, cupped hand or the inside of their elbow; bin the tissue after it was used; and wash their hands after they were used to stop a sneeze.

They were encouraged to share their new knowledge with family and friends at home.