Summary (5 minute read) : As the weather gets more dry, airborne viruses can stay afloat for much longer periods of time, travel further distances, and stay alive longer in these low humidity conditions. Meanwhile, our respiratory immune systems become impaired. Our weakened defenses allow for viruses to infect us more easily. Humidifiers not only help us avoid viral infection, but they also help alleviate flu & winter dryness symptoms on a day-to-day basis even if we do end up getting sick.
Humidifiers, air purifiers, and filtrations systems are 3 key appliances to leverage in combating the contraction & spread of airborne viruses.
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We all saw it coming, and somehow, it seems like this winter is still catching us by surprise - and what's worse is that there's still plenty of winter left to come.
Through all the controversy and uncertainty of 2020, one thing we can all agree on is the growing importance of doing more to protect and preserve the health & safety of our loved ones as we head into 2021.
I'm not writing this to tell you to wear a mask (but you should ☺️), to wash your hands more, to purchase an air purifier, or even to invest in a humidifier. The purpose of this post is to help you get a clearer understanding of what you're up against this winter season and to hopefully encourage you to look more into which "air care" solutions are best suited for your personal and day-to-day environments.
It's tough to defend ourselves against an airborne virus that we can't even see, so be sure to read on and learn why & how a proper air care and a regular disinfecting regimen is critical in maximizing our safety in 2021 and onward.
Winter's very own wildfire.
The most significant behavioral shift this winter is that many of us are cancelling holiday travel plans and instead preparing to spend a lot more time indoors. If we want to be spending this indoor time together with our family & friends, we have to be on our absolute A-game when it comes to preserving our personal health and that of those around us - or else anything we end up catching is bound to spread like wildfire.
On top of the flu, there is now also the additional risk of contracting something potentially much more dangerous and just as transmissible. As cases rise across the country, we have to do everything in our power to understand and prevent the domino effect from entering our homes.
The good news is that like with any wildfire, there are measures we can take to fight the spread and alleviate the symptoms we do end up falling ill.
Dry air is a virus' ticket to freedom.
I cannot stress enough how common it is to overlook the importance of dryness in an airborne virus' ability to travel and float freely throughout our airspace.
I go into a Harvard Medical School graduate & lecturer Dr. Stephanie Taylor's research and how it explicitly relates humidity levels to influenza contraction rates in a previous blog post here, but long story short, there is now concrete academic evidence to show that dryness is actually a key differentiating factor in environments that experience higher rates of viral infection.
Viruses are naturally dehydrated, and they want to latch onto humans so that they can rehydrate - if there's enough moisture in the air, the viruses can actually attach to water droplets before hitting us. This weighs them down to surface levels where they then settle and sit. It almost sounds ridiculous to say this, but a virus in the air is much more dangerous than a virus parked on your floor. We can't disinfect the air as easily as we can wipe the floor down with some Clorox.
Scientific evidence that supports the importance of keeping indoor relative humidity levels balanced has become practically undeniable. Over the past few months, a number of distinguished and leading members across medical and academic research fields have put together a movement to call for the World Health Organization to introduce and implement indoor relative humidity guidelines and recommendations across the board. If you're interested in learning more, I've linked their website initiative to spread the importance of maintaining indoor humidity levels between 40-60 % to reduce the spread of seasonal respiratory illnesses.
It's about time we stopped settling for the annual flu season - managing indoor relative humidity levels is our ticket to freedom.
Natural air flow & proper ventilation - the advent of purifiers & filtration systems.
In addition to slowing & pinning viruses down, we can also just extract them from the air. There are 2 main ways of doing so, and they both involve strong ventilation systems. According to the Wall Street Journal, air purifiers and filtration systems can do wonders if a constant airflow is kept in an environment and catching the airborne particles before they manage to latch onto anyone inside.
Studies have demonstrated that if you actually just open your windows and constantly introduce outdoor air while running a filtration system indoors to catch virus particles, you're golden. Standard filters like HEPA & MERV13 are commonly used in hospitals and various schools across the country. You can get upwards of 99.7% capture rates if you are good about keeping the air flowing through your space.
Now here's the catch. It's cold outside, and it's only going to get colder. Keeping windows open for 4-6 hours at a time is just simply impractical for most of us. Fans are barely effective in moving the air around an entire room, and the types of portable air purifiers that can really cleanse an entire indoor area can get extremely expensive.
Don't get me wrong, purifiers and filters are probably the best way to go if you're looking to sterilize an environment for maximum safety, but these options tend to be less accessible and much more suitable for public and uncontrolled/shared spaces.
Nowadays, there are a number of great filtration systems out there; it just comes down to how your space is oriented and what makes the most sense for your needs. If purification is what you think you need, I definitely recommend doing more research on placement, sizing, purification rates, and how you can maximize ventilation without having to freeze or crank up the heater too much.
Our team is also working on our very own air purifier solution, so stay tuned!
So that brings us back to our main question - what's the best air care solution for me?
Evaluate your space, and evaluate your conditions. If you can keep air flowing through your household, and you aren't too concerned about using a heater, a HEPA filter is definitely the best single-choice option. If you're looking for the optimal setup, a combination of a HEPA portable purifier and a humidifier is the way to go. Keep relative humidity levels between 40 - 60 % and make sure to sanitize and wipe down high-contact zones like front doors, knobs, and your mobile phone.
If you're not planning on exposing yourself to the public beyond just simple grocery runs, then a humidifier might be all you need to stay on top of things. If you have family members who are sensitive to respiratory infection, then look to run a purifier and humidifier overnight in areas where you think an airborne virus might have come in contact with and be sure to disinfect physical surfaces on the regular.
Dr. Akiko Iwasaki, Yale Professor and active investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute sums things up in a number of recent tweets:
"Indoor relative humidity levels during winter can drop dangerously low. Let's humidify our homes."
Something I bring up at the end of every Community Update post is that we want to be completely transparent and honest with you - our reader. Although we are a small business that designs and sells our own humidifiers here, we assure you that we are just trying to sincerely inform and equip you with the knowledge to make your own air care decisions. As always, we encourage you to continue to read up on humidifiers and consider adding one to your home, even if it's not one from our collection.
However, if you are interested in our ecosystem of air care products, we'd definitely recommend our latest model & design - the James. We've gone the extra mile to make sure the product experience is modern and intuitive, and our product team went above and beyond to make sure the shipping & packaging experience is one-of-a-kind and perfect for any of your gifting needs. It's powerful, easy to clean, versatile, and it comes essential-oil compatible for those of you who might enjoy an extra flair of fragrance.
Whether your reality has become a secluded work-from-home or online schooling experience, or just a COVID-adapted version of what your normal life used to be, it's incredibly important that as we move forward, we continue to actively take the necessary actions to improve our health & wellbeing.
Everyone here on our team is wishing you all the best. Thanks so much for reading and if you have any questions, thoughts, or concerns you'd like to share, send us an email via our contact page or leave a comment below!
Stay safe, stay warm, and have a wonderful day!
- Written by Henry J.
Lead Product Specialist
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