Airborne Transmission: A-to-Z Guide

Related concepts:

Droplet transmission, Fecal–oral transmission, Contact transmission, Body-fluid transmission.

Introduction:

Sometimes your child can get sick just from being in the same room as someone else who is ill. Understanding how diseases can spread makes them easier to prevent.

What is it?

Airborne transmission occurs when bacteria or viruses travel on dust particles or on small respiratory droplets that may become aerosolized when people sneeze, cough, laugh, or exhale. They hang in the air much like invisible smoke. They can travel on air currents over considerable distances. These droplets are loaded with infectious particles.
With airborne transmission, direct contact with someone who is infected is not necessary to become ill. The amount of exposure necessary varies from disease to disease. With chickenpox, a child could easily catch it from another aisle in a supermarket. With tuberculosis, closer contact and less air circulation are often needed.
Many common infections can spread by airborne transmission, at least in some cases, including: Anthrax (inhalational) Chickenpox Influenza Measles Pertussis (whooping cough) Smallpox Tuberculosis

How can it be prevented?

The best way to avoid airborne infections is to be in a different room from the person who is ill, with a closed door in between. If you need to be in the same room, wearing a mask may help for a brief exposure. Covering the mouth or nose when coughing or sneezing decreases droplet spread to some degree.

Related A-to-Z Information:

Anthrax, Body fluid transmission, Chickenpox (Varicella), Contact transmission, Droplet transmission, Fecal-Oral transmission, Influenza (Flu), Measles, Pertussis (Whooping cough), Smallpox, Tuberculosis

 

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Dr. Alan Greene

Dr. Greene is the founder of DrGreene.com (cited by the AMA as “the pioneer physician Web site”), a practicing pediatrician, father of four, & author of Raising Baby Green & Feeding Baby Green. He appears frequently in the media including such venues as the The New York Times, the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, & the Dr. Oz Show.