One of the most frightening aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic is the invisibility of the disease. Is the virus lurking on your hands? Was it waiting there until you touched the surface of your phone? Did it move to your face when you made that call?
Wouldn’t it be so much easier to remember to wash your hands and avoid touching your face if the virus were visible? The 1955 short film SNIFFLES AND SNEEZES takes on this premise, visualizing the common cold virus as a dark smudge making its way with ease from a book to a dinner plate and into its human host.
SNIFFLES AND SNEEZES was produced by the McGraw Hill Book Company’s educational film division—founded in 1946—at a time when the moving image was being used more frequently in the classroom. SNIFFLES AND SNEEZES was made to supplement the company’s 1954 publication of the textbook Health and Safety for You, by doctors Harold Diehl and Anita Laton. The book was marketed to middle and high school-age students as a source of reliable information about health and hygiene. Author Harold Diehl was one of the first researchers to conduct a clinical trial on the use of vaccines for the common cold—a coronavirus for which there is still no vaccine.
SNIFFLES AND SNEEZES focuses on the viruses that cause the common cold. The film advises against some bad habits such as licking your finger before turning a page and biting a pencil. The body’s defenses against viruses are detailed with animation.
SNIFFLES AND SNEEZES seems particularly timely as the world is trying to avoid the SARS-CoV-2 virus. As SNIFFLES AND SNEEZES prescribes, the best thing to do when you’re sick is to “stay home, stay in bed.” This protects the community from transmission and helps your body fight infection so that it does not worsen. While you’re at home, the film reminds us, “might as well make the best of it.” Enjoy the film below.