Why Wear a Mask? A Sneeze Analyzed

So I have allergies and was at my local drug store buying my usual antihistamine and tissues. You would have thought by the reactions around me that I had the plague, or the COVID-19. I mean, I sneezed. I have allergies. No big deal. I’ve been sneezing this time of year since childhood. My conclusion is that our society has officially become neurotic. I was gawked at, sneered, people moved away, and you could almost hear their negative thoughts. I felt like yelling out “F%^& all of you, I have allergies.” The mask I was wearing didn’t help my cause. Oh well, paid for my items and left the idiots to their irrational neurotic beliefs. 

            Then ironically, in my email, I get a notification from The New England Journal of Medicine breaking down the sneeze. How could I resist writing a blog about it? 

A human sneeze can eject droplets of fluid and potentially infectious organisms. The image sequence captures, in increments of 20 msec, the emission of a sneeze cloud produced by a healthy person.

            My conclusion: masks are appropriate given the prevalence of the COVID-19. In a sneeze, the NJM reports the largest droplets rapidly settle within 1-2 meters away from the person. The smaller and evaporating droplets are trapped in a turbulent puff cloud and remain suspended. Over the course of seconds to a few minutes, they can travel the length of a room and land 6-8 meters away. The following videos depict the sneeze. Pretty interesting:

  1. Video 1, normal speed (https://www.nejm.org/do/10.1056/NEJMdo004367/full/?requestType=popUp&relatedArticle=10.1056%2FNEJMicm1501197)
  2. Video 2, slowed down by a factor of 67) https://www.nejm.org/do/10.1056/NEJMdo004367/full/?requestType=popUp&relatedArticle=10.1056%2FNEJMicm1501197

So there you have it. This is why you wear a mask amidst this COVID-19 pandemic. Have a blessed sneeze-free day. 

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