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STANDARDS

CCSS: 3.MD.B.4, 4.MD.A.2, MP2, MP3, MP5

TEKS: 3.4A, 4.2C

Sneeze Scientist

A researcher studies how sneezes spread disease

First, there’s a tickle in your nose. And then, “ACHOO!” A sneeze lasts less than a second. Yet in that time, droplets of snot travel an average of six feet!

Sneezing is a natural reflex. It happens when your nose detects germs, dust, or other small particles. Tiny nose hairs called cilia trap the particles. Then your body gets rid of them with mucus and a big burst of air.

Sneezes can keep you healthy. But they can also make someone else sick. That’s why Lydia Bourouiba studies sneezes. “We want to understand how diseases like the flu are spread,” she says

First, there’s a tickle in your nose. And then, “ACHOO!” A sneeze lasts less than a second. Yet in that time, droplets of snot travel an average of six feet!

Sneezing is a natural reflex. It happens when your nose detects small particles. Germs or dust are two examples. There are tiny hairs in your nose called cilia. They trap the particles. Then your body gets rid of the intruders with mucus and a big burst of air. 

Sneezes can keep you healthy. But they can also make someone else sick. That’s why Lydia Bourouiba studies sneezes. “We want to understand how diseases like the flu are spread,” she says.

Sneeze Study

For years, scientists thought that most mucus from a sneeze or cough traveled just a few feet. Bourouiba is a physicist who studies how fluids move. She wanted to test this idea. So she developed an experiment.

First, Bourouiba used a small rod to tickle people’s nostrils. This made them sneeze. She recorded the sneezes on video. She watched more than 100 sneezes in slow motion. This allowed her to track how droplets of mucus move through the air.

Bourouiba learned that a cough or sneeze creates a germ-filled cloud. Mucus droplets in the cloud travel up to 26 feet! The droplets can stay in the air for up to 10 minutes. This is why it’s so important to cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.

Bourouiba hopes others will use her research to help prevent diseases like the cold and flu from spreading. “Sharing the excitement of discovery is the best part of the job,” she says.

For years, scientists thought that most mucus from a sneeze or cough traveled just a few feet. Bourouiba is a physicist. She studies how fluids move. She wanted to test this idea. So she developed an experiment.

First, Bourouiba used a small rod to tickle people’s nostrils. This made them sneeze. She recorded the sneezes on video. She watched more than 100 sneezes in slow motion. This allowed her to track how droplets of mucus move through the air. 

Bourouiba learned that a cough or sneeze creates a germ-filled cloud. Mucus droplets in the cloud travel up to 26 feet! The droplets can stay in the air for up to 10 minutes. This is why it’s so important to cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.

Bourouiba wants others to use her research. She loves sharing the excitement of discoveries. “It’s the best part of the job,” she says.

After which sneeze did the majority of students get sick? Write a comparison statement with the >, <, or = symbols.

After which sneeze did the majority of students get sick? Write a comparison statement with the >, <, or = symbols.

How far was the last “sick” person from the first sneezer?

How far was the last “sick” person from the first sneezer?

How would this activity change if the first sneeze traveled the maximum distance?

How would this activity change if the first sneeze traveled the maximum distance?

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