How far can a sneeze travel

PHYLLIS LOGIE By PHYLLIS LOGIE, 6th Mar 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Health>General Health>Cold & Flu

Just one sneeze is sufficient to expel mucous and salive laden with bacteria an average of 40 meters into the air with the potential to infect all who inhale it.

Sneezing travels far and spreads infection and disease

The scientific name for sneezing is 'Sternutation'. Simply described, sneezing is the expulsion of air through the nose and mouth which often brings with it droplets of saliva and mucous, laden with viruses and bacteria, which can hang in the air for several hours in the right environment and able to infect others if the atmospheric conditions are right.

The nose is lined with fine hairs designed to trap small particles which might be inhaled and cause irritation in the nostrils. The sneezing reflex is activated when something tickle or irritate the nerve ending in the nostrils. This irritation sends a signal to the brain, which in turn release histamines into the system, eventually manifesting as a slight burning sensation in the nostrils creating a chain reaction. This in turn triggers a reaction in the throat, face, eyelids, abdomen, lungs and mucous membrane in the nose, culminating in a sneeze to expel the irritation.

A single sneeze, on expulsion can travel at a speed of 95 miles per hour, however it can be up to 630 miles per hour, under the right conditions and can release at least 40,000 droplets, which go some way towards understanding why sneezing has been sites as the the commonest way to spread airborne infections.

The distance which a sneeze can travel depends on several factors working together at the same time. Firstly, it depends on the wind speed and the direction, humidity, temperature, pressure, elevation and the strength of the person who is sneezing. However, it is believed that a single sneeze can travel up to 40 meters on average, but if wind assisted it can travel substantially further, with larger droplets dropping off after being airborne for between 2 to 3 meters. Therefore the more refined the droplets the greater the travelling distance.

Sneezing can be embarrassing and often sneak up when lease expected and for this reason some people try to stifle their sneeze, which research has shown can in fact be dangerous. This can cause irreparable damage to the sinuses, rupture the inner ear and nasal cartilage and in extreme cases, damage even to the brain, this is because the back draft a sneeze creates can be extremely forceful.

Nasal irritation is not the only reason to trigger sneezing. Millions of people world wide suffer from a sneezing condition known as photic sneeze reflex, which is a condition due to the malformation of the trigeminal nerve. With this condition, several sneezes can be triggered, one after the other simply by stepping into the sunlight, inhaling a cold air or a strong smell.

One of life’s mysteries is why is it not possible to sneeze without closing the eyes. One theory has it that the automatic closing of the eyes is a reflex action to protect them from the escaping mucous through the nose and mouth. Sneezing is one of the principle ways of spreading disease; therefore it is worth remembering that whenever possible the nose and mouth should be covered when sneezing to prevent as far as possible the spread of viruses and bacteria.


Bacteria, Cold, Flu, Germs, Infection, Mucous, Nose, Nostrils, Saliva, Sneezing, Virus

Meet the author

author avatar PHYLLIS LOGIE
I am a retired female who has been writing for the past five years. My favorite topics are history and biographies.

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author avatar Dafeenah
6th Mar 2011 (#)

Very interesting. I had no idea a sneeze went 95 mph or faster. The human body does some amazing things.

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author avatar c4collins
7th Mar 2011 (#)

The bible says that the human body is fearfully and wonderfully made...astounding facts...good post!!

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author avatar Denise O
8th Mar 2011 (#)

Very interesting read on a sneeze. Thank you for sharing.:)

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author avatar Michael O'Doherty
4th Aug 2011 (#)

I sneeze in the office and I do not cover my mouth or nose when I do it because I want my germs to spread around the office and make others ill. My name is Michael O'Doherty.

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author avatar Phil
7th Nov 2011 (#)

You are an evil man. Whenever my brother comes round to visit me during the seasonal holidays, he does the same thing.

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author avatar Harpal
17th Jan 2017 (#)

I forgot to cover my mouth when I sneezed in the kitchen, I dread to think where my germs have travelled. Sometimes a sneeze happens all of a sudden and people may have little control over it.

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author avatar Julian Valdez
22nd Sep 2013 (#)

what the heck is 40 meters in American distance?

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author avatar John
12th Mar 2014 (#)

Hey where are your sources? citations are not needed for this website? i would like to quote some of your "facts" and want to make sure they are viable.

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author avatar Harpal
17th Jan 2017 (#)

It is always best to cover toasters with a tea towel as sometimes people may not cover the mouth when sneezing in the kitchen.

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