Saturday, December 22, 2007

Sneezing etiquette and the efficacy of masks

Fig 1 (Granville-Chapman & Dunn, 2007). Sneeze without a surgical mask: lateral view.

More fun from the Christmas issue of the British Medical Journal.
Mixed messages
Excuse me!
J Granville-Chapman and R L Dunn review the etiquette of sneezing in surgical masks

Sneezing etiquette and the efficacy of masks in the operating theatre remain a subject of debate. Standard teaching dictates that one must face the wound when sneezing, so that droplets escape backwards, via the sides of the mask. A literature search found no clear demonstration of this principle.

We therefore tested the hypothesis that one should face the wound when sneezing into a surgical mask in theatre.

Fig 3 (Granville-Chapman & Dunn, 2007). Sneeze with a surgical mask: lateral view.

The verdict?
Our photographs show that the most important visible escape of spray comes from below the mask on to the surgeon’s chest. We therefore recommend that surgeons should follow their instincts when sneezing during operations.

Granville-Chapman J, Dunn RL. (2007). Excuse me! BMJ 335:1293.

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