Pressure and Sneezing

Welcome to All Sensors “Put the Pressure on Us” blog. This blog brings out pressure sensor aspects in a variety of applications inspired by headlines, consumer and industry requirements, market research, government activities, and you.

Pressure and Sneezing

Don’t cover a cough or sneeze with your hand — cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve. It just makes sense, since the hand will be used to touch something including another person’s hand and spread any germs in the cough or sneeze unless the hands are washed immediately.

According to one author, “a sneeze is an expulsion of air from the lungs through the nose and mouth.” Without any covering at all, a sneeze can project droplets at a speed of up to 100 miles per hour for a distance of as much as 26 feet (8 meters) due to the pressure in the windpipe. While the sneeze only last for as long as 150 milliseconds, the droplets can stay suspended in the air for up to 10 minutes.

In either case, covered or uncovered,  the pressure developed during the sneeze can be around 1 psi (51.7 mmHg) in the windpipe. Another author measured the pressure developed in the mouth/pharynx during a sneeze as about 135 mmHg (2.6 psi) reached in about 0.1s. In contrast, a person exhaling hard during strenuous activity has a windpipe pressure of about 0.03 psi (1.55 mmHg). If you try to hold the sneeze back, the pressure inside the respiratory system can increase to a level of about 5 to 24 times the sneeze pressure. In rare instances, this pressure level can have detrimental side effects including:

  • Ruptured eardrum
  • Middle ear infection
  • Damaged blood vessels in the eyes, nose, or eardrums
  • Diaphragm injury
  • Aneurysm
  • Throat damage
  • Broken ribs

WikiHow Stop a Sneeze

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