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This Is How Fast (and Far!) Sneezes Can Travel

If you don’t cover your mouth when you “achoo,” this is a PSA for you.

You’ve seen it. We’ve all seen it. The careless passerby who lets out a giant ACHOO! without covering their mouth. Maybe they were carrying too many bags and didn’t have a free hand, or maybe they just aren’t aware of the potential consequences of an uncovered sneeze. 

Either way, not covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze is not only a major faux pas, but it’s also a catalyst that helps germs spread like wildfire. 

Here’s why: A sneeze is your body’s way of getting harmful irritants out of your nose. The reason it’s so #extra is because your body and brain have to use pure force—engaging many muscles in your body—to get the foreign invader out. Learn more about why we sneeze here.

Compare that bodily force to a slingshot. The more momentum you generate from pulling back that sling, the faster and farther that ball will go. That’s your body’s aim with every sneeze. Its goal is to send that invader flying. 

The momentum your body generates can send a sneeze traveling at a whopping 100 miles per hour. What’s more, that germy spray can also radiate more than 2 feet! 

Think about it: If you don’t cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze, your boogery sprinkle will land on everything in its tracks. That includes doorknobs, tables, food, or even the friend or stranger(s) next to you. Ew. 

Many things can cause a sneeze, but if the cause is something contagious, like a cold or flu, your uncovered achoo may be spreading your sickness. (Learn more about how to tell if your sneezes are due to a cold or allergies.) 

So next time you feel a tickle in your nose or a cough brewing, cover up. You’ll not only avoid dirty looks from your fellow citizens, but you’ll be doing your part in keeping germs to a minimum.

Duration: 0:55. Last Updated On: Sept. 20, 2019, 5:36 p.m.
Reviewed by: Preeti Parikh, MD . Review date: Sept. 20, 2019
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