It turns out dry air isn’t just bad for your skin. Low humidity can also impact your chances of catching coronavirus this winter—at least that’s what a group of worldwide scientists from top universities believes. And they’re calling on the World Health Organization to include regulations on humidity levels when defining optimal indoor air quality.
Their argument outlines how dry indoor air (meaning air with less than 40% humidity) can impact the chances of catching a virus in 3 ways: impairing the respiratory immune system’s defenses, increasing the virus’ “float” time, and elongating the virus' survival time. The group suggests setting a standard relative humidity level indoors that’s between 40 and 60%, which also aligns with the Environmental Protection Agency’s recommendation for indoor humidity.
Earlier this year, researchers at the University of Sydney and Fudan University School of Public Health in Shanghai came to a similar conclusion about the impact of humidity on coronavirus. Their peer-reviewed study found that a 10% decrease in humidity could double the chance of catching coronavirus, although their research focused on outdoor rather than indoor environments.
Regardless, the link between dry air and increased transmission of viral diseases isn’t a new discovery. Humidity has been studied for decades as a crucial factor in understanding how airborne diseases spread. Along with people spending more time inside, dry air is believed to be the reason why most viruses thrive in wintertime when indoor heating is at full blast.
Luckily, regulating your home’s humidity is surprisingly easy. Most modern homes have humidifiers built into their HVAC, and those that don’t can benefit from a humidifier. Even better? Amazon shoppers have already found the perfect pick in Honeywell’s Germ Free Cool Mist Humidifier ($84; amazon.com).
Its evaporative technology uses a replaceable wicking filter to return moisture to the air. While louder than an ultrasonic humidifier, this method ensures the air is never over-humidified and stays at the optimal 40 to 60% humidity level. Plus, it requires less frequent cleanings than ultrasonic models.
While there are plenty of great evaporative humidifiers on the market, Honeywell’s stands out for its extra sanitary design. It has built-in UV technology to kill most germs, as well as an antimicrobial filter that not only filters out large particles, but also prevents the growth of mold, algae, and bacteria. Not to mention, its 1.1-gallon tank holds enough water to run for up to 24 hours—but is still compact enough to sit on a nightstand or office desk.
All things considered, it’s easy to see how the humidifier already garnered more than 2,300 perfect reviews. And with benefits that go beyond reducing your risk of COVID-19—including better sleep, congestion relief, and even anti-aging perks for your skin—there’s never been a better time to add one to your home setup.
The information in this story is accurate as of press time. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, it's possible that some data have changed since publication. While Health is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations for their own communities by using the CDC, WHO, and their local public health department as resources.
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