Stan Bratskeir was taking care of his sick grandson when he had an idea.
“He was sitting on my sofa, recovering from a cold, and he kept coughing and sneezing into the crux of his arm,” he said. “The Center for Disease Control said that’s the best way to reduce passing it on, but it’s a little bit gross. I looked at that and thought, you need something disposable that you can cough into.”
Bratskeir, who is the CEO of a marketing consultancy group and a Port Washington resident, sprang into action. Although he had never worked in medicine, he had worked with medical professionals during his time in public relations. With a few collaborations, Bratskeir’s “Sneeve” was born.
As the name suggests, the Sneeve is a combination of the words “sneeze” and “sleeve.” The fabric is stretchy and is designed to fit over the sleeve of clothing; it is for children ages 3 to 8.
It is also designed to absorb water, meaning that the anti-microbial fabric will not feel wet even after being coughed and sneezed on several times. The fabric is treated with a safe mixture of silver and citric acid that kills 99.9% of germs and bacteria. At the end of the day, the Sneeve should be thrown away.
Every part of the Sneeve — including the packaging, which is manufactured on Long Island — was made in the United States, Bratskeir said.
“We could have made it for a third of the cost in China, but it was important that it be safe and well-made,” he said.
Currently, one package — which contains seven Sneeves — costs $9.99. It is available online at thesneeve.com and will be back on Amazon Prime soon (“they ran out of product,” Bratskeir noted). He plans on going to retail next year.
Bratskeir created the Sneeve in 2015 but didn’t really begin selling them until the end of 2016. Since then, he’s been getting the word out: the Sneeve has been featured on NBC’s “Today” show and the Huffington Post.
But Bratskeir said the best way to reach parents was through grassroots efforts and proven success stories.
“Behavior is a hard thing to change,” he said. “We need to demonstrate that it protects your clothing and that it reduces chances of spreading disease from child to child.”
To do that, several schools have begun testing the Sneeve on their young students to determine if there is any health improvement. The Port Washington Children’s Center has one such group, where the children are given the Sneeve and attendance is tracked from Thanksgiving through February. Two control group classes in Pennsylvania where students are not given a Sneeve are also having their attendance tracked.
Bratskeir said the results have been positive so far. Although noting that the data collected is not yet large enough to be statistically significant, he notes that attendance is up 3 percent from last year in Port Washington, even as the state is in the grips of one of the worst flu seasons in years.
“It builds good behavior and it reminds them to cough into the crook of their arm,” he said. He added that as part of encouraging this behavior, children were also learning about germs and the importance of washing your hands.
Right now, the Sneeve comes in a light blue fabric. Bratskeir said as the company grows, he would like to add different designs, including camo patterns, animals and sports team logos.
“We can do that once we get over the hump and become a bigger customer for fabric,” he said. “Kids will want to wear them. But it will take some time until we reach that point. Unless you’re Johnson & Johnson, you have to be patient.”