You have been working diligently to minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19. You probably have a great routine by now:
- Face mask? ✔️
- Social distancing rule? ✔️
- Home cooking? ✔️
- Cancelling holiday plans? ✔️
This is great and make sure to follow through, especially this winter. The virus is surging to record levels in almost every state, and hospitals are overwhelmed. We should all be doing everything we can to avoid exposure to COVID-19. All the small things you are doing is great, but there is one more thing scientists are talking about: humidity.
The temperatures are dropping fast. As the air gets colder, it gets drier. Colder air holds less water vapor. In addition to naturally drier air, most buildings in the United States are heated through HVAC system; it sucks the outside air then heats it up. The result? Even drier indoor environment. This becomes a great place for respiratory viruses to travel from host to host. Dry air also weakens your natural body defenses.
"This dry period is not a requirement for triggering an influenza outbreak, but it was present in 55-60% of the outbreaks we analyzed, so it appears to increase the likelihood of an outbreak," says Jeffrey Shaman, an infectious disease expert at Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health. "The virus response is almost immediate; transmission and survival rates increase and about 10 days later, the observed influenza mortality rates follow."
A group of researchers from the Mayo Clinic worked with a local nursery school to install humidifiers in two of its four classrooms. These classrooms were identical in size and height. The humidifiers ran from January through March. During this period, the scientists found less infectious virus in the humidified classrooms. Students also reported that they developed flu-like symptoms in classrooms without the humidifier.
Adding a humidifier to your environment can eliminate dry-air related issues, and help minimize risk of infection. Keeping the Relative Humidity (RH) between 40 to 60 percent will help you sleep better while reducing the risk of getting a nasty infection.