How humidity could help fight coronavirus

Humidity and coronavirus

Based on what we know about previous coronaviruses, humidity could be a factor in the spread of the coronavirus.

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Humidity could be helpful in relieving the symptoms of coronavirus, as well as preventing it from spreading, if evidence from flu research is an indication.

Like many aspects of COVID-19, there’s not much known yet about its connection with humidity.

Most of the research on this topic has to do with influenza, because of its reemergence during the winter and because of the negative impact it has during the colder months, Dr. Amy Edwards, an infectious disease specialist at UH Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital said.

“It is probably specific to some viruses," Edwards said. "Whether this coronavirus is one -- I guess we’ll see in a couple months.”

Humidity affects the flu in two ways. Studies have shown that water in the air could slow the spread of influenza.

“I know for influenza it kind of is intuitively the opposite than what you might think,” Dr. Harry Kestler, a microbiology professor at Lorain County Community College, said.

“As the humidity goes down, the virus actually does better. So in the winter, you wonder “Why is it always a winter thing?” In homes, in the winter, it tends to be dry.”

And low humidity can dry out the mucus that normally coats your nose and airways, making it easier to get infected, according to the Cleveland Clinic. It can also dry out the skin on your lips and your eyes.

Heating systems can make the air in homes during the winter incredibly dry, Kestler said. That’s why people often use humidifiers during the winter.

The majority of adverse health effects caused by relative humidity would be minimized by maintaining indoor levels between 40 and 60 percent, according to an article in Environmental Health Perspectives.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a humidifier to help fight symptoms like cough and sore throat for other common coronaviruses, but hasn’t recommended it for this year’s novel coronavirus.

Kestler recommends running a hot shower to breathe in the steam. That will hydrate your nose and throat. There’s always the time-old method of boiling a pot of water and carefully breathing in that steam as well.

But Edwards warns against boosting the humidity too high, which can spur mold growth.

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