MadSci Network: General Biology

Re: How fast is a sneeze when it comes out from the body ?

Date: Tue Sep 28 17:06:07 1999
Posted By: Brett Ellis, Grad student, Parasitology, Tulane University
Area of science: General Biology
ID: 936861329.Gb

Darram Sim,

Sorry it took a little while to find you an answer on your sneezing question. When I was in grade school I remember my teacher telling me about the velocity of a sneeze, however that was too long ago for me to remember. In grade school I was amazed to find out how fast a sneeze really was and I am still amazed by the answer I found today. Are you ready for the answer?

How fast do you think you can throw a ball? Well, a sneeze is about as fast as a professional baseball pitcher can throw a fastball. The most conservative estimates I found were 150 km per hour or roughly 100 mph. The highest estimate I found came from the JFK Health World Museum in Barrington Illinois who claim that a sneeze can go as fast as 85% of the speed of sound or approximately 630 miles per hour. This sounds like an unusually high estimate and the most likely speed is probably 150km/hr. Once in awhile, in science, we can have conflicting answers. It is the job of the responsible scientist to decide which information is most likely correct.

The reason why sneezes are so powerful is because not just the nose is involved. It is a reflex response that involves the muscles of the face, throat, and chest. Have you ever noticed that you have to close your eyes when you sneeze? This is because the muscles that close your eyes are part of the reflex response as well. Did you know that when some people go out into the light it causes them to sneeze? Sometimes if you cannot quite get yourself to sneeze looking at a light can help get it out of you.

One more last tidbit of information for you about sneezing. Did you know that Thomas Edison came up with the idea of movies from watching someone sneeze in 1888? He was looking at still sequential pictures of someone sneezing, and realized that if you viewed them quickly in a sequence, that you might be able to make a movie.

We take this for granted now with the advent of television, movies, and computers, but Thomas Edison was the first person in history to come up with this idea. There is some neat information at the Library of Congress about Thomas Edison and sneezing. The information can be accessed at:

Current Queue | Current Queue for General Biology | General Biology archives

Try the links in the MadSci Library for more information on General Biology.

MadSci Home | Information | Search | Random Knowledge Generator | MadSci Archives | Mad Library | MAD Labs | MAD FAQs | Ask a ? | Join Us! | Help Support MadSci

MadSci Network,
© 1995-1999. All rights reserved.