How humidifiers can help get you through COVID-19

Both the spread of viruses and symptoms are aggrevated during the cold, dry, winter months, especially indoors, where heaters are running full blast and drying out our sinuses. Aside from wearing masks and social distancing, another strategy to reduce the risk of transmission is humidification.

Our nose is a great filter for viruses and other foreign particles, but it can malfunction when the air is too dry. The insides of the nose are lined with mucus and tiny hair cells called cilia. These are the microscopic cousins of the nose hairs we can see with the naked eyes, and they “beat” in a pulse-like fashion, carrying mucus towards the back of the nose and down the throat. On average, we swallow about a quart of mucus every day, in which countless viruses are carried down to the stomach and safely dissolved in acid.

However, mucus becomes thicker and the cilia lose mobility in dry environments. Viruses can then fly past the protective lining in our nose and penetrate the cells deep in our airways. Therefore it is important to maintain proper humidification to keep our nose functioning as it should to filter out viruses.

Airborne transmission of the coronavirus via aerosol particles indoors appears to be strongly influenced by relative humidity, according to researchers from the Leibniz Institute for Tropospheric Research (TROPOS). Keeping the indoor relative humidity levels within a 40-60% range helps prevent aerosol particles from floating long distances and facilitate transmission between people.

A humidifier can also help relieve symptoms during the recovery period from COVID-19 such as a cough or sore throat, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

It is also important to remember to frequently clean humidifiers to prevent mold from forming and making us sick. As with so much else in the pandemic, multiple factors are at work, and we are constantly battling new viruses along with the old, especially during winter. No single layer of protection is foolproof, nor is any single method of prevention. Let's gear up with our masks and a humidifier for the winter, and fight those viruses off!