To date, COVID-19 has already infected more than 2 million people worldwide. It is one of the coronaviruses like SARS and MERS that the World has witnessed before, but with life-threatening respiratory illness (pneumonia) and flu-like symptoms.
While COVID-19 is being treated as a droplet infection, there are still studies and research underway on how exactly it is transmitted between people. As per the recent reports by WHO, there are numerous publications which provide initial evidence on whether the COVID-19 virus can be detected in the air and thus, some news portals have suggested that there has been airborne transmission. WHO continues to recommend airborne precautions for all the countries around the globe; however, these findings need to be analyzed carefully.
The international research bodies and epidemiologists suggest that the fight against the coronaviruses could get a boost if Canadians paid attention to the importance of relative humidity. As the climate of a country has a significant role to play in shaping the trajectory of virus outbreaks, indoor humidity has a considerable impact on the transmission of airborne diseases. Canada is a cold country with a dry climate, most of the private, as well as the residential properties here, fail to maintain or balance the right threshold of relative humidity between 40-60%.
In the testing period like this, despite the lack of conclusive evidence, it is critical to take other preventive measures with short-term benefits like humidifying the air around you and your family. It will prepare you to combat similar pandemics in the future and serve as the first line of defense. Apart from the vaccine, you need to keep a check on the indoor relative humidity now more than ever.
The connection between relative humidity (RH) and diseases
These outbreaks happen seasonally, it is necessary to understand the pattern of diseases that arise during a particular time. Heating systems make the indoor air dry and vulnerable – as the humidity goes down, the virus gets a better hold. Low levels of relative humidity let the virus particles travel freely in the air. It can make your mucus dry, exposing you to the disease and making you prone to infection.
The transmission of the disease is massive in dry air. It makes the infectivity of disease higher and impairs the ability to fight the infection. Balanced relative humidity boosts more moisture into the air, which slows down the virus spread. Too much humidity also encourages the growth of bacteria, dust mites and mold. Your humidifier should be able to lift the RH levels between 40-60%.
How does relative humidity stop the transmission?
We are all practicing social distancing, locked in your home with your family or friends; we share space with them while working, watching movies or at a dinner table. In such a closed indoor environment, you are probably inhaling what the other members have exhaled or breathed out. Relative humidity does not have a direct impact on the disease/flu, but it does make the airborne virus particles heavier and faster to fall out of the air after a sick person has coughed, sneezed or exhaled.
The National Institution for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recently executed a study with breathing mannequin devices in a room. These devices were used to capture the virus particles present in the air in different humidity conditions. The study concluded that in the lower levels of relative humidity, up to 77% of particles were capable of spreading the infection even after one hour of coughing. After raising the humidity levels above 40%, the virus particles reduced to 14%. It suggests that if the airborne particles are not hydrated properly, then they can wreak havoc on you and your family’s health. However, optimum levels of relative humidity provide less favorable conditions for viruses to thrive and survive, meaning you are less likely to breathe them.
Relative humidity influences your body’s natural infection-fighting function. It prevents the virus from spreading in the upper respiratory tract of your body. So, before the virus holds you hostage, add a humidifier or a dehumidifier to balance the levels of humidity in your residential and workspace properties. Make the health of your family future-ready with humidity sensors like a smart thermostat, the Ecobee 3 Lite. Other options include small sensors available from HWisel that specifically measure Relative Humidity and can be placed in multiple rooms; you can get them installed at the trouble points in your home. HWisel’s low cost monitoring service, mobile app, and email or SMS notifications will inform you of the level of humidity before the situation becomes problematic.
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