Introduction and Objective: United Kingdom Health Security Agency (UKHSA) guidance related to mask use for health care workers in a non-aerosol generating procedure (AGP) setting has remained as Level 2 water repellent paper mask (surgical mask) only. Energetic respiratory events, such as coughing, can generate vast numbers of droplets and aerosols. Coughing, considered to be a non-AGP event, frequently occurs in the relatively small, confined space of an ambulance (∼25 m3 ). The report seeks to explore whether existing research can provide an indication of the risk to ambulance staff, via aerosol transmission, of an acute respiratory infection (ARI) during a coughing event within the clinical setting of an ambulance.

Methods: International bibliographic databases were searched (CINAHL Plus, SCOPUS, PubMed, and CENTRAL) using appropriate search strings and a combination of relevant medical subject headings with appropriate truncation. Methodological filters were not applied. Papers without an English language abstract were excluded from the review. Grey literature was sought by searching specialist databases OpenGrey and GreyNet, as well as key organizations’ websites. The initial search identified 2,405 articles. Following screening, along with forward and backward citation of key papers identified within the literature search, 36 papers were deemed eligible for the scoping review.

Discussion: Attempts to replicate a clinical environment to investigate the risk of transmission of airborne viruses to health care workers during a coughing event provided evidence for the generation of respirable aerosol particles and thus potential transmission of pathogens. In cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2), potential to infect versus true airborne transmission is a debate that continues, but there is general consensus that a large variation of cough characteristics and aerosol generation amongst individuals exists. Studies widely endorsed face masks as a source control device, but there were conflicting views about the impact of mask leakage.

Conclusion: Further research is required to provide clarity of the risk to health care workers when caring for a coughing patient in the confined clinical ambulance setting and to provide an evidence base to assist in the determination of appropriate respiratory protective equipment (RPE).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)515-519
Number of pages5
JournalPrehospital and Disaster Medicine
Issue number4
Early online date17 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - 17 Aug 2022


  • COVID-19
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • aerosol
  • cough
  • prehospital
  • Humans
  • Cough
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Patient-to-Professional/prevention & control
  • COVID-19/epidemiology
  • Health Personnel
  • Aerosols
  • Research Report
  • Ambulances


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