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ADVANCE Perspective: Respiratory Views

What’s in a Sneeze?

Published March 3, 2016 1:48 PM by ADVANCE for Respiratory Care & Sleep Medicine

By Tamer Abouras


Remember the hubbub about 3D printed firearms a few years ago? The concept of 3D printing in and of itself — certainly one of the more futuristic ideas we’ve brought to life in recent times — is a little bit confounding until you’ve seen it with your own eyes, and so the idea of anything that’s been printed using one of these devices seems all the more mindboggling.


Yet we’ve not only traversed past the point at which these devices are considered to be threatening or subversive and they’re now being integrated into how we solve problems and make life better for a whole lot of people. They’re even going so far as to dissect and figure out what’s wrong with us when we do something as common (and as annoying) as sneezing.


We say “God bless you” when someone sneezes because it was once believed that, for a brief moment, your heart stopped (it doesn’t). That being said, it’s also a measure of the minimal amount of time that transpires during a sneeze. It’s no longer than the blink of an eye and oftentimes, it’s not particularly telling. You could sneeze because of some dust, because of allergies or as a symptom of a greater sickness or infection. Nailing down exactly which one, however, likely requires a doctor’s attention.

SEE ALSO: Asthma Inhalers Get Smart

Enter the “sneezeometer.” Per ADVANCE’s own reporting, “Research from the University of Surrey has led to the development of the world's first 'sneezometer,' an airflow sensor or spirometer that is sensitive enough to measure the speed of a sneeze.”


David Birch, PhD, of the University of Surrey's Aerodynamics and Environmental Flow research Group explained, "Breathing disorders are highly prevalent in the developed and developing world, with one in twelve people in the UK currently receiving treatment for asthma. The diagnosis and monitoring of respiratory diseases is key to proper treatment and we have now developed a simple, low-cost and non-intrusive diagnostic solution that will make doctors lives easier across the world."


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So, imagine you find yourself sitting at home and all of the sudden, you have a fit of sneezing. This goes hand-in-hand with some general fatigue and congestion you’ve been dealing with all day. Thanks to this handy little device — which could surface by 2018 — the specific answer as to what it is you’re encountering exactly could be readily available for you and your doctor.


Provided you’ve got one more “ah-choo” in you, that is.

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