A sneeze can travel up to 12 feet (3.6 meters) depending on the force behind it. When a person sneezes, tiny droplets containing mucus and germs are expelled into the air. These droplets can travel at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour (160 kilometers per hour) and can remain suspended in the air for several minutes. This means that a sneeze can easily reach and infect people within close proximity. It is important to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your elbow when sneezing to prevent the spread of germs.
Ahhh…ahhh…ahhh…CHOO! There’s nothing quite like the explosive power of a sneeze to startle an unsuspecting friend. We just hope you caught your sneeze in a tissue or the bend of your arm.
If not, it’s difficult to say how many people you just exposed to your germs. Some of those people may have wished you well or said, “Bless you!” after your sneeze, but they’ll be saying something else entirely if they find out your sneeze gave them a cold.
When you sneeze, your body forcefully expels air, germs, and moisture through the mouth and nose. It does so with great intensity. Some studies have indicated that a sneeze can release air at velocities of up to 93 miles per hour!
Given that speed, it’s not surprising that germs in a sneeze can travel a significant distance. If you’ve ever been a few feet away from someone when they sneezed, you may have felt some droplets land on your arm. Disgusting!
Scientists now know that germs in a sneeze can travel much farther than just a few feet. Previous studies had focused on larger, visible droplets to estimate the distance germs could travel in a sneeze.
New studies using more advanced equipment have been able to track sneeze particles farther than ever before. For instance, researchers have discovered that many particles from a sneeze travel together in an undetectable gas bubble that scientists refer to as a “multiphase turbulent buoyant bubble.”
Researchers have found that smaller particles suspended in this gas bubble can travel as far as 200 feet away from the person who sneezed. Moreover, these germs can easily travel far enough to enter ventilation systems and spread even further!
These recent findings were made by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Their results were surprising because they showed that germs in sneezes could travel much farther than previously believed.
Researchers believe these new findings highlight the importance of containing sneezes, either by using a tissue or the bend of your arm. This way, many of the germs can be confined to a much smaller area.
These findings also emphasize the need for effective ventilation filtration systems to prevent the spread of airborne microbes. Filters should be changed regularly. Additionally, ventilation systems should include filters capable of trapping tiny particles, such as bacteria and viruses.
In the end, the most basic defense strategies will still be effective. If you’re sick, stay home from work or school. If you come into contact with sick individuals at work or school, wash your hands frequently, especially after touching other people or objects and before eating.
Try It Out
Are you ready to improve your health? Find a friend or family member to help you explore the following activities:
- Do you think you’re at a safe distance from a sneezing person? Think again! Take a measuring tape and use it to mark a radius of 200 feet in every direction from the center of your house. How far would you need to be to avoid getting sick from the germs in a sneeze?
- Everyone sneezes occasionally. It’s a natural part of life, right? However, this doesn’t mean you have to put others at risk within a 200 feet radius. Visit Sneezing Etiquette online to learn about the proper dos and don’ts of sneezing.
- If you’re interested in something both gross and fascinating from a scientific perspective, check out this slow-motion sneeze video. You’ll quickly see how germs in sneezes can travel such long distances. After watching it, you’ll be motivated to protect yourself from others’ sneezes!