ORLANDO, Fla. – Researchers at the University of Central Florida are developing special cough drops to help manage the spread of COVID-19.
The team is hoping to change people’s saliva, making it heavier and stickier using candy or corn starch to help sneeze and cough particles fall to the ground, rather than float in the air, where they could infect people with the novel coronavirus.
The idea is that Americans could pop the cough drops or lozenges in their mouths before going out in public, like to the grocery store, work or school.
Researchers say reducing transmission distance will be especially important as people return to work and school, where maintaining six feet of social distance may be difficult.
“So if we change the properties from the source, which is essentially our respiratory functions, whether it’s coughing, sneezing, speaking or breathing, then you’re simply going to reduce the amount that you’re producing, and hopefully bring the six feet to something shorter, where we can interact more,” said Kareem Ahmed an assistant professor and co-principal investigator.
Early data suggests using a face mask and the cough drops could have people go from six feet of social distancing to two feet, researchers say.
The team is using high-speed cameras to characterize the patterns and distance traveled of droplets emitted from sneezing and coughing, including those that have been altered by candy or starch.
“Our data have shown that altering the physical properties of the saliva shows great promise in reducing the exposure of a sneeze,” postdoctoral researcher Jonathan Reyes said. “Particulates travel shorter distances and fall faster.”