I have been fortunate to work with a handful of incredible doctors and scientists who specialize in infectious disease, disease control as well as building A.I. “wellness monitoring” devices. Their urgent recommendation is an easy step to take in the fight against the Coronavirus in your home (and PLEASE for the elderly in your family). The important take away from this entire message is to achieve humidity above 50%, especially at night while you sleep to maintain hydration.
- By keeping our mucous membranes moist, we maintain a natural barrier to infection that’s like a “bulletproof vest” protecting our lungs, nose and mouth from infection. Dry air, especially while sleeping, makes us vulnerable to infection. Viruses are 10-100X more viable in dry air.
- High humidity causes “friction” in the air that limits the distances that viruses can spread through the air. It markedly decreases the risk of person-to-person spread of infection.
- Moisture keeps virus particles on surfaces from drying out, going airborne and getting into our lungs.
In epidemiology, you have transmission and susceptibility. Transmission is what sick people do and susceptibility is the measure of how difficult it is for well people to fend off illness.
Healthy lifestyles make for less susceptibility. Respiratory diseases enter through the lungs. Arguably sinuses but they’re fairly hardened. We know this because 20% of humans have staph in their nasal passages and 20% of those are MRSA. But the body is not infected. So the lower respiratory tract is the area we want to protect. Therefore the cilia, mucus coating the lungs (essentially skin) are able to stop the big droplets if they are properly hydrated. A doctor at Duke who obsessively studies cystic fibrosis (his son suffers) finds that around 65% or less hydration in the lung tissue makes you susceptible. So if you breathe moist air (OR HYDRATE), you’ll avoid it. At 15%RH room temperature you exhale about 20x more moisture than you inhale. At 50% its 5x. So after 8 hours of not drinking water, you’re probably dehydrated when you wake up. Getting on a scale at night and weighing yourself in the morning will prove this to you.
It’s very clear that it’s transmitted through the environment. And this is both alarming and good news. We’ve known for a long time that viruses can be spread through droplets. If somebody sneezes and one of those wet droplets lands on you, or a few feet away from you, and then you rub your nose or the virus or bacteria get into your body, you have a high chance of getting sick. But the transmission pathway that we haven’t really wanted to think about is when an infected person sneezes, coughs, or simply breathes droplets into the air. If the air is dry, those droplets shrink and desiccate to reach a moisture equilibrium within the air around you. And we now know that the viruses in those very tiny desiccated particles can go up in the air, they can travel into an HVAC system and re-infect people who are quite far away and have had no immediate contact. That’s one of the things that makes this virus alarming. We can no longer deny airborne transmission of infectious aerosols.
The concept of airborne transmission of infectious droplets is scary, but we can help control it by keeping the relative humidity in our breathing zone or in our buildings between 40%-60%. This has turned out to be the magic zone. I think Mother Nature gave us that opportunity so we could survive. If you’re outdoors, even say in the winter, your relative humidity is typically in a fairly safe zone. It’s cold out and the low moisture content puts the relative humidity at 50%-60%. When we bring that cold air in the building, we warm it up to comfort temperatures, and all of a sudden relative humidity falls to 20%. And this is where we’re getting into trouble. Data and research show us that if people in offices, hospitals, and schools manage their indoor relative humidity at 40%-60%, humans’ mechanisms for physiological defense are improved.
There is some brilliant research from Yale that came out last May that really helps us understand how appropriate water vapor in our breathing zone bolsters our immune system. If you can humidify your indoor environment to this moderate zone, you actually bring out the infectious particles. They are brought down from the air. Research from 2010 as well as up to up to a week ago from the NIH [National Institute of Health], Princeton, and Harvard shows that viruses in the air and on surfaces are inactivated when the relative humidity is maintained in that zone.
As human beings, we don’t do well in dry air, and these quickly mutating viruses and bacteria do. In dry air, they’re like, great, we can mutate, we can fly around, and we can find new hosts. So, one thing we can do is really think about the air. We can humidify from 40%-60%. There are other strategies, like UV-C light, which de-activates many organisms. Filtration can be very beneficial. Hydrogen peroxide misting is another one, and I’m sure I’m missing some. The one I like best is humidifying the indoor environment, because not only does it help support the air we breathe, it also bolsters our own immune systems, which is critical, especially now.
- Jeffrey Gusky, MD is an emergency medicine physician in Dallas, Texas / Emergency Response Doctor in COVID-19
- “Moist Air” & COVID brief audio clip on The Financial Exchange Radio Show
- Stephanie Taylor, M.D., M. Arch, CIC
- Rik Heller, Chairman, and CEO of Wello – Pioneering inventor of automated wireless temperature monitoring sensors and cloud-based technology for healthcare and food services; he recognized the need for improved disease control and contagion management.
- Prof Gordan Lauc, PhD: Director of the National Centre of Research Excellence in PHC; Director of the Human Glycome Project / Member of the Johns Hopkins Society of Scholars
- Fighting Viruses with Glycans: Our mucosa (a membrane that lines inside of our mouth, nose, all airways, eyes, etc) is protecting our cells with a thick layer of glycans, but it has to be moist to be a functional barrier.
- Scientific America: Humidity Helps Fight Flu
- American Society for Microbiology: Effects of Air Temperature and Relative Humidity on Coronavirus Survival on Surfaces
- Medical News Today: How Humidity May Affect COVID-19 Outcome
- Yale University School of Medicine: Low ambient humidity impairs barrier function and innate resistance against influenza infection
- Yale News: Flu virus’ best friend: low humidity
Please stay hydrated, healthy and safe!
All the best
Rik Heller’s response:
Humidity is friction to epidemics. The problem with Florida is that AC is a dehumidifier. You can see the water coming out of the AC when it’s on. The AC is sized for comfort and lowers the humidity indoors to ~40%. Covid19 is very infectious as much as Norovirus (the Chipotle virus). The reason it travels around Cruise ships is because the AC desiccates air by 20% indoor @ room temp.
Anything around salt water gets a constant absolute humidity. It’s hard to talk RH, only AH or dewpoint. AH is grams/m3 . Much simpler than RH to use. Rh is very misleading and hard for anyone to think about except at constant temperatures like to room temperature.