It's so ingrained in us to offer this common courtesy after a sneeze, that we rarely think about the impact a person's sneeze can have on our health. Here's the disgusting truth about sneezing and coughing: contagious germs can spread further and faster than you think.
In January of 2019, Researchers at the University of Bristol published research that measured the airborne survival of bacteria in aerosol droplets from coughs and sneezes. Their research found that the average sneeze or cough can send around 100,000 contagious germs into the air at speeds up to 100 miles per hour. Those germs carry viruses, such influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and adenoviruses, which cause the common cold. They can also carry bacteria, such as Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumonia) or Haemophilus influenzae (can cause Meningitis, Bronchitis, or ear infections).
If that isn't gross enough, the most critical time for the spread of those germs, according to the researchers, is in the first few minutes after a sneeze or cough occurs. That's right. It says minutes. That means proximity doesn't play as big of a role in transmission as we thought. While aerosols that carry the germs eventually drop to the ground, that takes several minutes.
Stop the spread of germs
Typically, you have to inhale about 50 droplets to get an infection. The more time and distance you put between you and the sneezer, the less likely you will get sick. You should know it by now, but the magic distance is at least 6 feet apart.
In addition to distance, there are a few other methods you can use to ward off germs.
Wear a Mask
Even if a time comes where masks are no longer mandatory in the fight against COVID-19, it's good to keep yours handy. Wearing a mask, especially in cold and flu season, will help your chances of remaining healthy.
Carry Hand Sanitizer
Keep alcohol-based hand sanitizer on you at all times. A 15-20 second rub with at least 65% alcohol will keep your hands free of germs so that you don't transfer germs from your hands into your mouth, nose, or eyes.
Wash your hands
You had to see this one coming! Washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds should scrub off a bulk of the germs taking up residence there.
Put the lid down
Flushing a toilet has been found to produce droplets containing microorganisms, where the spray can reach as far as 6 feet and as high as 2.7 feet! It can contaminate surfaces like the door handle, toilet flusher, and even toothbrushes on the countertop.
Use proper sneeze and cough etiquette
Use a tissue to cover your mouth and nose every time you cough or sneeze. If a tissue is not available, cough or sneeze into your elbow. Never cough into your hands or open air. Always turn your face away from people around you when coughing or sneezing. Place your used tissue immediately in the trash can.
Disinfect surfaces that may have been touched, coughed on, or sneezed on. Use an EPA registered disinfectant and pay attention to the contact time (the amount of time the surface needs to stay wet to satisfy kill claims).
Protect yourself and those around you by staying home when you feel ill, practicing cough and sneeze etiquette, and washing your hands frequently. With cold and flu season fast approaching amid a pandemic, hold the "bless you" until after you've taken a few steps back.
A Trusted USA Manufacturer
Safetec is dedicated to infection prevention. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Safetec has increased production of products that are effective against the Novel Coronavirus or will help prevent the spread. Click Here to view our COVID-19 product page.
A passion for effective, safe, and high-quality products has guided us in everything we do at Safetec. As a trusted US infection control and first aid OTC product manufacturer for over 28 years, Safetec strives to keep people safe from infectious disease. Our team follows exemplary quality control procedures when developing and manufacturing products, and complies with the FDA Code of Federal Regulations and EPA guidelines.