Coughs and sneezes stay in the air longer than we had realized.

New research from MIT using slow motion imagery has discovered that a sneeze or cough forms a gas cloud that extends the range of small droplets of moisture.

For the record they are called Multi-Phase Turbulent Buoyant Clouds.  It’s a name that probably won’t catch on with the general public.

“The main finding of the study is to realize the importance of the multi-phase turbulent buoyant clouds in extending the range of the droplets contained in a sneeze or a cough,” says Lydia Bourouiba, an assistant professor in MIT’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and a co-author in the study.

To put this in laymen’s terms, when someone sneezes the projectile of moist droplets that come flying out of the nose at great force travel much further than we ever realized and stay in the air longer than we ever knew.

The very smallest of droplets travel anywhere from five to 200 times beyond what had been earlier thought, meaning that infectious particles are lingering longer than we thought.

Because these infectious particles are remaining airborne for longer times, ventilation systems, including on planes, may play a larger role in spreading viruses than was known.

“The range and the position of the contamination are extended by a factor of at least 100 or 200 for the smallest droplets that we emit when we’re actually coughing or sneezing,” Dr. Bourouiba tells KTRH News.

This video shows you how far and how long a sneeze containing contagious virus’ remain in the air.