Implication of coughing dynamics on safe social distancing in an indoor environment-A numerical perspective

Build Environ. 2021 Dec:206:108280. doi: 10.1016/j.buildenv.2021.108280. Epub 2021 Aug 30.


Coughing is a primary symptomatic pathway of respiratory or air-borne disease transmission, including COVID-19. Several parameters such as cougher's age, gender, and posture affect particle dispersion indoors. This study numerically investigates the transient cough evolution, contamination range, particle reach probability, and deposition fraction for different age groups of males and females in standing and sitting postures in a ventilated room. The efficacy of a cloth mask has also been studied with and without the influence of air ventilation. Validated Computational Fluid Dynamics methodology has been implemented to model complex physics such as turbulent buoyant cloud, particle-air interaction, particle collision/breakup, and droplet evaporation. Our results show that overall, the contamination range is slightly lower for females due to lower cough velocities and particle counts. Moreover, a significant fraction of particles crosses the two meters social distancing guideline threshold with an unhindered cough. Besides, wearing a cloth mask reduces the average contamination range by approximately two-third of the distance compared to coughing without the mask. However, aerosolized particles reach longer streamwise distances and drift for extended durations beyond thirty seconds. This study can be used to improve the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning recommendations and distancing guidelines in indoor settings.

Keywords: COVID-19; Computational Fluid Dynamics; Contamination range; Coughing evolution; Face mask efficacy; Lagrangian modeling.