People Cannot Tell Healthy or Sick Coughs by Sound

By Andy Dong

An epidemiologist named Nick Michalak and his colleagues found out that people can’t tell the difference between a healthy sneeze and a sick sneeze, and published their findings on June 10, 2020.

Some earlier studies showed that people can identify if someone is sick or not by sight or smell. But people didn't know if it was possible to tell the difference from sound. Dr. Michalak and his colleagues gathered a few hundred people for a lot of studies. The researchers played clips of people coughing and sneezing. The sounds of sneezing and coughing came from more than 200 people. The participants were asked to judge each sneeze and cough to decide if the person was sick or not sick. The result was that people can’t identify the difference between a sick sneeze or cough from a healthy one, even though they thought that they could. According to Michalak, his "team's new studies should give people pause before jumping to conclusions about whether someone is sick based on a cough or sneeze."In the story “Ah-choo! Healthy sneezes, coughs sound just like sick ones to us,” scientists were able to show that sometimes human instincts are wrong when it comes to detecting illness.



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