How far does a sneeze really travel? Cutting edge research revealed the science of snot


Researchers in the US are studying the effects of sneezing by using special cameras to analyse how they spread microbes. Do you cover your mouth when you sneeze? You might want to start after watching this particular video.

Led by mathematician (and “fluid dynamicist”) Lydia Bourouiba, the team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) record each sneeze in slow-mo detail.

The cameras are running at thousands of frames per second and slow motion playback captures the explosion of mucus and saliva each time someone sneezes.

Nature / YouTube
Lydia Bourouiba with one of the cameras used in the research

The reason for the study is to increase our understanding of how sneezes transmit infectious diseases.

“At this point we understand much better how sneezes and coughs actually function and the overall dynamic of contamination,” Bourouiba told the science journal Nature .

“The only aspects we still are working on is to refine the question of ‘how is that affecting the actual fate of the pathogens?'”.

Bourouiba’s research is already challenging conventional wisdom about how far you can shoot mucas when you sneeze.

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It was believed that larger droplets fell to the ground within one or two metres of launch.

However, this research shows that they can travel up to EIGHT METRES for for a sneeze and up to six meters for a cough. And depending on the environmental conditions, those droplets can hang around in the air for up to 10 minutes.

Basically, you could easily hit someone standing on the other side of an average-sized dining room.

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