May 28: MIT Medical answers your COVID-19 questions. Got a question about COVID-19? Send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll do our best to provide an answer.
Is it helpful or totally irrational to hold your breath when you are walking past someone?
In all likelihood, it’s not at all helpful. On the other hand, “totally irrational” seems a bit harsh for something many of us probably find ourselves unconsciously doing. In any case, the totally rational reality is that viral particles disperse quickly in air, and the turbulence caused by two people moving past each other only hastens that process. In addition, we know that length of exposure is a major factor in virus transmission. Fleeting encounters — even relatively close fleeting encounters — carry very little risk, particularly if both individuals are wearing masks.