Published On: Mon, Jun 12th, 2017

How to Stay Well: THIS is how far from a sneeze you can be to catch a disease


Dr Javid Abdelmoneim, GP Helen Lawal and GP Phil Kieran, present the show, and every week each one of the medical professionals focuses on a different health issue. 

This week, GP Helen Lawal looked at how close you have to be to someone who sneezes to catch their illness. 

With the help of Professor Andrew Easton, the pair carried out an experiment to find out the answer. 

Using an empty coach, a number of plates and a ‘sneezing Sally’, the duo were able to work out how far sneezes can travel. 

‘Sneezing Sally’ was a doll who could project out sneezes on command. 

After placing plates in one row intervals on the coach coach, and using a unharmful solution to represent the illness, Helen and Andrew let Sally sneeze from the back of the bus to see how far her germs could travel. 

The plates were then taken into a lab for further investigation. 

The results showed the plates nearest to Sally being covered with the virus – but that wasn’t all. 

Sally’s germs were also found half way up the coach, 5.5 metres away. 

A similar experiment was carried out in America, which Helen described as a “ground breaking discovery.”

Helen said: “Researchers found that when we cough and sneeze, it’s not just droplets. Droplets are trapped in a moist sneeze cloud which makes them travel faster, and in the experiment they were found to be able to travel eight metres from the sneezer.” 

The germs from sneezers can also settle on hard surfaces, and as long as they are in warm and humid conditions, they can last for several days. 

But Helen added: “Luckily, our body’s defence system kicks in and helps protect us.” 

GP Phil Kieran has also presented RTE’s You Should Really See a Doctor, and Helen is a former athlete turned lifestyle blogger who specialises in sexual health. 

Dr Javid Abdelmoneim has worked in Sudan and Iraq and has helped with the Ebola crisis. 

Coughing and sneezing? This could be why you’re always first to catch a cold. 



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