Dr. Taylor, a pediatric oncologist, and her team of colleagues studied patients in a unit of a hospital to isolate factors associated with patient infections. While factors such as hand hygiene and number of visitors influenced infection rates, one factor demonstrated the biggest association with infection and that was.....DRY AIR. The research team was able to associate low relative humidity of indoor air with higher infection rates.
“When we dry the air out, droplets and skin flakes carrying viruses and bacteria are launched into the air, traveling far and over long periods of time. The microbes that survive this launching tend to be the ones that cause healthcare-associated infections,” said Taylor. “Even worse, in addition to this increased exposure to infectious particles, the dry air also harms our natural immune barriers which protect us from infections."
Since this study was published, more research has been done demonstrating the link between dry air and viral and bacterial infections. Scientists previously thought microbes in dried droplets were dead, however they now know these microbes are not dead, just dormant and waiting for a source of hydration to cause infection. Since people are 60% water, researchers have concluded that when a infectious particle lands on or in a patient, the pathogen (infectious agent) can rehydrate and initiate an infection. YIKES!!
So, what can YOU do to reduce the chances of infection this flu season? Keep your indoor air between 40%-60% relative humidity. Purchase and use a humidifier and hygrometer (about $10) to make sure each bedroom/living space is within the healthy humidity range.
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