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FRIDAY, February 26, 2021 (HealthDay News) – Just chatting in a barbershop can spread the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, according to a new study.

The same research is probably true in many health care settings.

Most research on exhaled air and the spread of the virus has focused on coughing or sneezing, which can spread small respiratory droplets over long distances.

For this study published online February 23 in the journal Fluid physicsJapanese researchers evaluated the movement of the air exhaled by hair salon workers while talking. They simulated a number of typical scenarios, such as workers standing and leaning over clients, or shampooing a client lying down.

“A significant amount of similar face-to-face contact is believed to occur not only in cosmetology, but also in medical and long-term care,” said study author Keiko Ishii, from the University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. Aoyama Gakuin in Tokyo.

“We analyzed the characteristics of the diffusion of the exhalation with and without a mask when a person was standing, sitting, face down or lying face up,” Ishii explained in a press release.

The researchers found that the exhaled air of an unmasked barber shop worker who spoke tended to move downward due to gravity, meaning a customer below the speaking worker could be at risk of infection.

When a speaking worker wears a mask while standing or seated, the aerosol cloud tends to attach to the speaker’s body, which is warmer than the surrounding air, and flows upward along the body.

But if a worker bends down, the aerosol cloud is likely to loosen from that person’s body and drift onto the client below, the study found.

Experiments with face shields have shown that they can prevent aerosols escaping from the talking worker’s mask from floating towards the client.

“The face shield helped the onset of exhaled breathing,” Ishii said. “Therefore, it is more effective to wear both a mask and a face shield when providing service to clients.”

More information

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on COVID-19 prevention.

SOURCE: Fluid physics, press release, February 23, 2021