At this time of year, offices ring with the sound of sneezes, snuffles and coughs. I’m sure I’m not the only one who sometimes wishes a colleague who is producing lots of these sounds had stayed at home, for fear that I will catch their illness myself.

What is a sneeze?

Generic Nasal Spray De-formulationA sneeze is a kind of spray, although not a very well controlled one. A spray is simply particles (solid or liquid or a mixture of the two) projected into the air, often for the purpose of delivering particles to a specific location.

The size of the particles in the spray has implications for the delivered dose of material and the final location. One can characterize the size of particles in sprays with the Spraytec, which uses laser diffraction.

Sneezes examined

This all came to mind when I heard an article on BBC Inside Science radio show, discussing work carried out at the University of Bristol on sneezes. The group there has created a chamber which suspends a sneeze so that they could carry out detailed examination. The environment around a virus in a sneeze droplet is very different from a petri dish.

Room for evermore examination

While the discussion focused on virus viability and disease transmission, I couldn’t help remembering a tale I’ve been told by some colleagues. Apparently, in the early days of the Spraytec laser diffraction system, pepper was used to stimulate sneezing so that a sneeze could be measured. This was tried for fun, just to see if it could be done.

It seems to me, the detailed particle size history of the sneeze, that is the particle size distribution as a function of time, provided by the Spraytec would be a valuable addition to the work carried out at Bristol.
Here is an example of a particle size history:

Particle size history example

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