Saliva stimulants, like cough drops, increase viral transmissibility potential
Being caught in a blast when a friend sneezes is rarely pleasant. But thinking about the spread of viruses, what they’ve eaten recently might make a big difference. Using high-speed photography here, researchers capture liquid particles bursting from noses – in a rainbow timeline from purple (0 seconds) to white (0.5 seconds). Compared to a normal sneeze (top left) they found making saliva more viscous with food additives (top right, bottom left) changes a sneeze’s spread. Thicker mucus produces more large liquid droplets than small aerosol droplets. Aerosol droplets are more likely to carry small viral particles – like those from SARS-CoV-2 (cause of COVID-19) – and bob around in the air for longer. While wearing a mask (bottom right) confines a cough or sneeze, researchers believe future advice from doctors might be to avoid ‘cough drops’ which stimulate the release of excess saliva.
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