Sneezes can travel nearly three metres - students underline NHS message of using tissue to help contain flu

Why is good general and oral hygiene important?

Students explain how viruses can only survive for 15 minutes on tissue, but can last up to 24 hours on hard surfaces

Sneezing into a hand may seem like protection enough to stop coughs and colds from spreading.

But viruses can survive on hard surfaces for 24 hours and carry distances of around three metres – as demonstrated by a workshop run by dental therapy and hygiene students from the Plymouth University Peninsula Dental School. 

Second-year students ran a session at City College Plymouth for young adults with mild learning difficulties to talk about good hygiene and oral health.

They highlighted how simple steps such as good hand washing (30 seconds with thorough technique) and using a tissue when sneezing can help to stop the spread of viruses – with a virus only able to survive on a tissue for 15 minutes. 

Cross-infection and how bacteria can be kept at bay were the overriding themes of the session, and students explained how good oral health is also very important to prevent oral infection and disease.

The event took place as part of the University students’ Inter-Professional Engagement module – which is run on the BDS Dental Surgery and BSc (Hons) Dental Therapy and Hygiene courses in partnership with Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise (PDSE) and community engagement charity, Well Connected. 

Damian Lemieszek, second-year BSc (Hons) Dental Therapy and Hygiene student who helped deliver the session, said: 

“We wanted to keep things as clear as possible, so the three key messages we focused on were good hand hygiene and its effectiveness in stopping diseases spreading, good oral hygiene and also good general hygiene. We were able to deliver an interactive quiz to get the students thinking about what they already knew and dispel a few myths, and we’re really pleased with how the event was received.”

Rob Witton, Director of Social Engagement and Community-based Dentistry at PDSE, said: 

“The second-year Inter-Professional Engagement module is so important to help students understand the social and organisational barriers facing community groups and organisations in delivering oral health messages. The City College Plymouth students were so engaged and receptive to the session – particularly the station on watching how far a sneeze can travel! We really hope they’ll take on board the messages delivered and apply them in their everyday lives.”

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