If you pop a balloon blown up by someone with a cold, will you get infected?

Yep.  The viruses that cause the common cold and flu are those that depend on transmission via the respiratory route.  This includes coughing, sneezing, and even flat out talking or breathing.  That’s why it’s best to just stay away from sick people in general. It also gives you a really good excuse to tell someone you don’t like to stop talking and save their breath!Balloons. by hollaatkylee, on Flickr

By exhaling into a balloon, usually forcefully, the sick individual will definitely expel plenty of ‘virions’ (the infective form of a virus).

When you pop that balloon, the virions will then be released into the air around you, and if you’re close enough (within 2 meters or so), then you’ll almost certainly inhale a few of them.  You may be even farther away than that and still get sick if the winds carry the virions in your direction or if you touch a contaminated surface and then your nose or mouth.

Oh, and just one more thing, it’s a fact that upper respiratory viruses, like those that cause the flu and the common cold, can be shed into the environment and infect another person both before and after symptoms of the disease start and end, respectively.  So, just because you don’t feel or look sick, that doesn’t mean you’re not making other people sick by talking to them about why you’re fed up with Arsene Wenger’s transfer policies.

Answer by Artem Cheprasov

Question from Dave Gray via Facebook

Article by Artem Cheprasov

August 27, 2013

Dr. Artem Cheprasov was born in St. Petersburg, Russia. He then moved to the U.S. when he was a little boy. So no, he is not a spy. Or is he? He finished his studies in veterinary medicine at the top 10% of his class, conducted research, and discovered a cool mathematics algorithm; but we cannot confirm this as both Washington and Moscow have refused to comment on this matter either because he really is a spy or more likely because they have no idea who he even is.


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