Could Opening Your Windows Help Prevent the Spread of Coronavirus?
Let's see a show of hands for all who are ready for a bit more fresh air during quarantine time—without breaking any shelter-in-place rules. ✋✋✋
Turns out, one of the best solutions for more outdoor air might have an added benefit of helping to slow the spread. Back on March 9, when the CDC and the White House Coronavirus Task Force began releasing guidelines and suggestions for mitigation, Task Force Chair and Vice President Mike Pence tweeted images to try to, "Keep yourself and those around you safe from the coronavirus."
Among the tips? If you need to have business meetings, do so in "open, well-ventilated areas" and at home, "increase ventilation by opening windows or adjusting ventilation."
Research has proven that fresh air can help increase concentration and improve your mood , which score this pandemic strategy bonus points. But the link to COVID-19 is all related to the way the virus itself spreads.
Open windows and other types of ventilation can reduce the transmission rates of tuberculosis (a bacterial disease that's passed from person to person through the air) by about 72%, per a 2019 study in the journal BMC Infectious Diseases.
This coronavirus spreads through "respiratory droplets and contact routes," according to the WHO, like when an infected individual coughs or sneezes, spraying the virus on someone else who either may inhale it. (Hence, the importance of staying home if you're sick, social distancing and face masks.)
We're unsure, however, if the virus itself can live in air. Scientists believe it may live up to 3 hours in the air outside of its "host," just like how "measles can remain infectious in the air for up to two hours after an infected person leaves an area," per the CDC.
Keeping that in mind, the current CDC recommendations promote as much fresh air as possible during your indoor time (as long as you don't have allergies or live in an area with thick pollution) to potentially slow the spread of the virus. The hope is that the clean air will replace, or at least "dilute," the virus-contaminated air if any infectious particles happen to be hanging out there.
This is particularly important if you're taking care of someone at home who has COVID-19, according to the CDC. "If you have to share space, make sure the room has good air flow. Open the window and turn on a fan (if possible) to increase air circulation."
This is just one of several action steps they recommend to potentially protect the virus from spreading person to person in the household, along with frequent hand washing, not sharing household items, staying as far apart as possible if you need to stay in the same home, washing laundry thoroughly and disinfecting all "high-touch" surfaces at least once a day.
This strategy can also be beneficial, even if you don't have anyone in your household with symptoms. Current estimates suggest that 25 to 50 percent of those who contract the virus may show no symptoms at all, so many more of us may be infected than are aware.
Anything that can potentially reduce the quantity of viral particles in the air can make a big difference in transmission rates and severity, as it's believed there is a dose-response relationship. (In other words, the larger the "cloud" of pathogens someone introduces into their bodies, the more likely they are to become infected—and the more likely they are to have stronger coronavirus symptoms.)
The situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to change quickly; it's possible that information or data has changed since publication. While EatingWell is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations by using the CDC, WHO, and their local public health department as resources.