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Why Does Winter Air Make Us Sick?

It's no coincidence that flu and colds seem to be more common during the winter. In fact, the word influenza originates from 18th century Italian for "influence of the cold". So simple observation historically has identified the season as a cause for outbreaks. But why?

William Schaffner, a preventive medicine expert at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville notes what he calls the "breathing zone" a three to six-foot radius in which respiratory illnesses can spread easily from person to person. While most cold germs are passed through contact surfaces, flu is primarily spread through the air. The tendency to stay indoors at work and at home during the colder months creates the close confines that allow airborne germs to spread, transporting the flu virus from schools and work to households.

Along with doctor recommended flu vaccinations and other preventative measures such as sanitizing surfaces and washing hands, other helpful tactics for protecting your home against flu may include improving indoor air quality.

Three Ways to Fight Airborne Flu Germs

Open the Windows

Fight Airborne Flu Germs

Fresh air flushes flu germs from the closed-up spaces of your home. On warmer, winter days open the windows and let the flu germs out.

Clean Your HVAC

Because flu germs can remain active longer on smooth surfaces like plastic and steel, it's important to keep your heating system at home clean. By vacuuming air ducts and replacing dirty furnace filters on a regular basis you eliminate poor indoor air quality at its source. Scheduled cleanings during flu season prevents stubborn germs from recirculating throughout your home every time you turn up the thermostat.

Crank up the Air Purifier

Regular use of reliable home air cleaners reduces the presence of airborne flu germs, which may help prevent sickness from spreading.

The best home air purifiers safely remove 99.97% of airborne particles as small as 0.3 microns, including pollen, ragweed and other allergens, viruses, germs, dust mites, mold spores, pet dander and cigarette smoke-all factors that contribute to compromised lung function and make anyone in a winterized household more susceptible to airborne germs. You may also want to consider certain air cleaners which feature allergy and flu settings for added air defense during flu season.

Most Common Airborne Illnesses During the Winter Season

Most Common Airborne Illnesses During the Winter Season

Common cold

Because the common cold is really an endless array of viral infections, the medical community cannot pinpoint a single cure. Which means we must suffer through the sniffles when they come. Children often get 10 or more colds per year! A combination of washing hands, sanitizing common surfaces and air purification help reduce the presence of cold germs.

Influenza

Though flu vaccinations are the most reliable defense during a fierce flu season, other measures such as keeping hand sanitizer handy and running an air purifier with a fresh filter helps reduce the spread of these pesky germs.

Croup

Croup is caused by viruses that can be spread easily through coughing, sneezing, and respiratory secretions. Children with croup should be considered contagious for three days after the illness begins or until the fever is gone. Most likely this infection will be brought home from school. You will hear their telltale barking cough. In most instances, croup is mild and can be treated with over-the-counter acetaminophen and ibuprofen. To prevent it from spreading to other kids at home or yourself, quarantine a sick child and use air purification, especially in their room.

Strep Throat

Streptococcal bacteria are highly contagious. They can spread through airborne droplets when someone with the infection coughs or sneezes, or through shared food or drinks. Minimizing contact while the infected person recovers with antibiotics is one preventive measure against the spread of germs. Also, keeping the air clean in their bedroom or in common areas helps as well.

Add Extra Air Purification to Nurseries

Young children are extra susceptible to flu germs, which means greater protection of the air they breathe is essential during flu season. Babies breathe an average of 30-60 times a minute-that's more than double the amount of an adult. Considering that a baby's lung is not yet fully developed at birth, and with their faster breathing rate, respiratory illnesses can account for the most health problems among infants. A specially designed baby air purifier kept in a nursery aids with reducing airborne pollutants around a young child.

Take these preventive measures during cold and flu season and maintain a healthy home all winter long.

See also

Why Purify Your Indoor Air

Important Air Quality Certifications You Should Know

Clean Air Improves Workplace Productivity