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Why 10 Feet May Be Better Than 6 Feet

To stay safe, maintain a distance of 10 feet when possible, say some researchers.
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In his laboratory, Manhar Dhanak, PhD is studying coughs. But the chair of ocean and mechanical engineering at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton isn’t looking for a drug that can cure them. He’s aiming to discover how distantly they might fly.

By now, most of us know the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations for lowering the risk of contracting COVID-19: Wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds (or use hand sanitizer when you can’t), stay home as much as possible (and definitely when you are sick), wear a cloth face covering in public, and stay at least six feet (two arms’ length) from other people.

How ‘6 Feet Distance’ Guide Became Standard

The six-feet recommendation is a longtime standard for viruses, which are primarily transmitted by large droplets spewed from the mouth of a person who is sick, says Irfan Hafiz, MD, an infectious disease specialist and chief medical officer at Northwestern Medicine Huntley Hospital in Huntley, Illinois. “Most large droplets that carry COVID-19 will fall within that distance,” he says.

But a rash of new research is raising questions about whether six feet is always sufficient. And in a number of situations, it seems the answer is no.

Six feet is good, but 10 feet is better,” concludes Joseph Allen, DSc, director of the healthy buildings program at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, in an op-ed in May 2020 in the Washington Post.

Coughs and Sneezes Fly Farther Than You Think

Droplets and other particles emitted from your mouth when you cough vary in size. “Gravity pulls the larger particles to the ground within a short distance, but smaller particles can be carried farther in the air,” Dr. Dhanak says.

He and his team simulated coughs in a lab with these smaller particles spewing from a mannequin. They used laser lights to visualize the distances traveled.

Although their research is not yet published, preliminary findings are that a heavy cough sends particles out six feet in roughly 12 seconds, and nine feet before a minute is out. The heaviest coughs pushed the germs as far as 12 feet. What’s more, some particles lazily lingered in the air for a minute or more.

Other researchers have added wind to their calculations and found coughs can go even farther. A report published in May 2020 in the Physics of Fluids showed that a mild cough in low wind propels droplets 18 feet in just five seconds. “Considering the environmental conditions, the [six feet] social distance may not be sufficient,” the authors, from the University of Nicosia in Cyprus, concluded.

Sneezes Are Strong and Can Transport Particles, Too

Sneezes can be even more powerful than coughs, notes Erin S. Bromage, PhD, associate professor of biology at the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth, in a widely-shared blog post. “A single sneeze releases about 30,000 droplets, with droplets traveling at up to 200 miles per hour (mph). Most droplets are small and travel great distances (easily across a room),” he writes, noting that an infected person’s droplets contain as many as 200 million particles of virus.

Of course, with each foot of distance from the person coughing or sneezing, fewer droplets head your way. “The number of droplets gets diluted over distance. So the risk decreases the further you are, although it is still there,” Dhanak says.

Tiny Particles From Your Body Also Hang in the Air

These droplets, produced when an infected person (whether showing symptoms or not) coughs, sneezes, or talks, “can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs,” the CDC website explains.

Aerosols Are Lighter, Go Farther

But experts are now coming to understand that particles even smaller than droplets, known as aerosols, might also spread the disease. Because aerosols are lighter than droplets, they remain airborne longer and they spread farther away, Dhanak says.

This means you can potentially catch the novel coronavirus even if a person six feet from you doesn’t cough or sneeze.

Simply talking can spread these germs, with louder speech even riskier, reports researchers at the National Institutes of Health and the University of Pennsylvania in a paper published in May 2020 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Just a minute of loud speech generates “at least 1,000 virion-containing droplet nuclei that remain airborne” for more than eight minutes, they conclude.

Indoor Air Flow Is Yet Another Factor

Exactly how far droplets or aerosols travel seems to vary by the situation. In general, being outside helps limit transmission because the particles disburse faster. This is why experts say summer outdoor activities are generally safer — although even here you should observe ample social distancing, Dr. Hafiz says.

If you’re inside, many factors play a role, including whether the air-conditioning (AC) is on and what direction it is flowing. This was shown in the early release of a study scheduled for publication in July by the CDC of a superspreading event in a restaurant in China, where a person who didn’t know they were infected ate. Diners at three tables on one side of the restaurant, some farther than six feet, later developed COVID-19, while those sitting elsewhere did not. The authors conclude that the AC system, which blew on that side of the restaurant, likely spread the disease. “Strong airflow from the air conditioner” could have sent the virus from table C to table A, then to table B, the authors report.

You’ll want to increase your distance as much as you can while indoors, where most virus transmission takes place, Dr. Bromage says. Still, “dose and time” are both needed, so simply blitzing through someone airstream is less likely to make you sick than hanging around for hours, he observes.

Don’t Run or Bike in Someone Else’s Wake

Even outdoors, six feet of distance does not offer sufficient protection if you’re exercising near others in a crowded park or neighborhood, wrote Joel N. Myers, PhD, founder and CEO of AccuWeather, in a blog.

Walking a brisk 4-mph pace is equal to moving six feet each second, while biking at 15 mph is like 22 feet per second, he notes. If you and another exerciser are moving in the same direction at those speeds, “you probably should be at least 20 or 25 feet apart” for brisk walking, “and more like 30 to 40 feet apart” for biking, he writes.

In a preprint study, other researchers suggest more than six feet of distance is needed if you run, as is avoiding running directly in another person’s slipstream. Instead choose a more staggered or side-to-side arrangement.

Masks Help Limit How Far Droplets Travel

When someone wears a face covering when they cough or sneeze, this does lower how far the germs travel, Hafiz says. “An infected person who wears a face mask can significantly reduce the spread of the virus,” he says.

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Having been under virtual house arrest for some time, it’s easy to get carried away with the excitement of a short break, post Covid-19. You’re taking in new sights, sounds, smells and tastes. It’s an adventure for the soul. But rich foods and drinks, lack of exercise and the stress of travel, particularly with young children, can take a toll on your health. To avoid paying for it later on, take a few steps to remain healthy.

REMEMBER TO GET ENOUGH SLEEP

A holiday after such a stressful period for everyone might be much welcomed, but don’t neglect your sleep patterns. Aim for six to nine hours a night and take a short nap in the afternoon if you need it.

WASH YOUR HANDS OFTEN

Stop germs in their tracks. Remember: wet, lather, scrub, rinse, and dry. This isn’t just good advice in a pandemic, it’s important every single day of your life. Practice it frequently throughout the day to prevent spread of diarrhea and respiratory disease, too. PACK SMART While it’s great to finally be free to enjoy a break, beware of the holiday cheer. Many hotels offer complimentary drinks, snacks or cakes. The result can be hard on your system. Pack Udo’s Choice Ultimate Digestive Enzyme Blend, to aid your digestion. A unique blend of seven plant-based digestive enzymes assist in the breakdown of proteins, fats, carbohydrates and fibre. Udo’s Choice Super 8 Microbiotic is a hi-count microbiotic blend that contains eight strains of lacto and bifido bacteria. Each daily capsule contains 42 billion ‘friendly’ bacteria. Both products can be found in your local health food store or pharmacy.

ALWAYS KEEP HYDRATED

Drink lots of water. Spending hours travelling can dehydrate you. Carry a large bottle of water to have throughout your journey, and pack Manuka Lozenges with vitamin C for an added immune boost and try to choose caffeine free drinks throughout the day.

EAT FISH

If you’re staying by the sea, eat lots of fresh grilled fish. Oily fish –including sardines, fresh tuna, salmon and mackerel – is particularly good as it’s rich in Omega 3, which keeps your skin hydrated and encourages healthy digestion as well as weight loss. Try to eat a variety of different coloured fruits and vegetables – oranges, red peppers, green courgettes, yellow sweet corn – to get a wide range of antioxidants.

PROTECT FROM THE SUN

Lying in the sunshine feels great but you only need 10 minutes of unprotected sun to get your daily dose of vitamin D. After that you should use sunblock. As we get older, the collagen in our skin breaks down more rapidly, leading to lines, wrinkles and discolouring. To prevent the breaking down of collagen, eat lots of purple fruits, such as fresh blackberries, blueberries and black grapes.

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Experts support COVID vaccines for Inflammatory Bowel Disease patients

British Society of Gastroenterology Inflammatory Bowel Disease Section and IBD Clinical Research Group release statement supporting COVID-19 vaccines.

You will be able to have the coronavirus vaccine if you are immunosuppressed; you need the coronavirus vaccine if you are immunosuppressed; and you will be prioritised because you are immunosuppressed.Dr Nick PowellClinical Reader and Consultant in Gastroenterology

The statement, co-written by the Department of Metabolism, Digestion and Reproduction’s Dr Nick Powell, Dr James Alexander and external colleagues, strongly supports SARS-CoV2 vaccinations for patients with IBD, while underscoring the risks of taking the vaccination in IBD patients are anticipated to be very low.

Patients with IBD may have increased susceptibility to infectious diseases. The main concerns around IBD patients taking the vaccine are related to the theoretical risk of sub-optimal vaccine responses rather than vaccine side effects. Even if vaccine effectiveness was reduced it would still likely offer some protection from the virus. The one thing for certain is that if you don’t have the vaccine you will remain at high risk of getting the virus

Dr Powell has spoken about potential side effects, stating: “The risks of vaccination are very low, and are mostly confined to short-lived, mild side effects, like headache or fatigue. On the other hand, the risks of COVID-19 infection are sadly all too familiar. More than 1 in 1000 people in the UK have already lost their lives to this deadly virus. Vaccination is the best way of protecting IBD patients from COVID-19 and will be the most important route for us to get back on track with our lives”.

The team has been working on a number of projects and events around public and patient engagement with the vaccines. At the end of last year, Dr Powell was one of a number of experts on a panel discussing covid vaccines for people with Crohn’s or Colitis. The panel answered patient questions and alleviated potential fears they may have about being vaccinated. Catch up on the event here.

With the Pfizer/BioNTech and the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines already receiving MHRA approval, and the Moderna vaccine approval expected shortly, it is recommended that IBD patients accept whichever approved SARS-CoV2 vaccination is offered to them.

Speaking about the vaccines, Dr Powell said: “Vaccination against SARS-CoV2 holds the key to beating this deadly disease. It is especially important in vulnerable patient groups. We have engaged extensively with our patients and have found that there are significant concerns and worries about the vaccines. The IBD experts of the British Society of Gastroenterology unanimously agree that vaccination is by far the best option for IBD patients, and indeed other patient groups needing to take immunosuppressive drugs.”

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IF IN EYES: Rinse cautiously with water for several minutes. Remove contact lenses, if present and easy to do. Continue rinsing. If eye irritation persists, seek medical advice/attention. If medical advice is needed, ensure product container or label is at hand.

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