Sneezes on a Plane: How Far Do Germs Travel
Germaphobes, get out your homemade hazmat suits. A Pennsylvania-based engineering firm, Ansys, has mapped out far germs can spread while you are on a plane…and it’s slightly horrifying.
You’d think if you were say, 10, 20, or even 30 feet away from a sneezing passenger, you’d be free from the germ exposure. However, according to Ansys, you could be up to 50 feet away and still be exposed. Airborne projectiles can travel up the distance thanks to the enclosed space and force of the sneeze.
You aren’t safe if you are behind the sneezer, either. The germs dispersed in all directions. In the video depicting the spread of particles, represented by tiny colored dots, it looks like a confetti cannon has been popped into the air. Robert Harwood, a director at Ansys, explained that, “Those droplets get picked up by the airflow and get transplanted all over the cabin. They actually spread quite far.”
The air inside a cabin is recycled through filters, but the process takes about 2 minutes.
During the Ebola scare, passengers were taking precautions and worrying about the spread. You can rest a little easier, as Ebola isn’t an airborne disease. Plus, only those who have been to or have been in contact with someone who has visited Sierra Leone, Guinea or Liberia need to even consider the threat.
The best way to prevent others from being exposed to your sneeze, bring tissues. Covering your sneeze with your hands or doing the “Dracula” move and sneezing into your elbow helps, but nothing beats the capture of germs like a tissue.
If you are healthy and want to prevent illness, make sure you drink lots of water. Keeping your body hydrate will help your body produce illness-prevent mucus. Wash your hands with soap and water, and avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes.