It has nothing to do with vaccines or anti-virals
Dr. Stephanie Taylor, who practices pediatric oncology, got curious about why so many of her young patients came down with the flu. She initially thought that it might have something to do with how many visitors came to the patient’s room, but wasn’t satisfied with just supposing — she wanted to know for sure.
Dr. Taylor and several of her colleagues studied 370 patients in one unit of the hospital and tried to isolate the factors that might be associated with patients getting infections. “They tested and retested 8 million data points controlling for every variable they could think of to explain the likelihood of infection. Was it hand hygiene, fragility of the patients, or room cleaning procedures?”
Although all of those things did have a moderate impact, what they discovered made the most difference by far was low relative humidity. “When we dry the air out, droplets and skin flakes carrying viruses and bacteria are launched into the air, traveling far and over long periods of time. The microbes that survive this launching tend to be the ones that cause healthcare-associated infections,” said Taylor. “Even worse, in addition to this increased exposure to infectious particles, the dry air also harms our natural immune barriers which protect us from infections.”
Other research in peer-reviewed literature has confirmed their findings since Dr. Taylor’s study was published and The National Institutes of Health is funding continued analysis. Microbes were once thought to be dead after they were dried out, but it’s been discovered that they can rehydrate when they make contact with people, essentially getting reconstituted in the moisture-rich environment of human bodies.
According to her research, and subsequent studies in the medical literature, the “sweet spot” for indoor air is between 40% and 60% relative humidity. An instrument called a hygrometer, available for about $10, will measure it. Every hospital, school, and home should have them, according to Taylor, along with a humidifier to adjust room hydration to the sweet spot.
When the Mayo Clinic humidified half of the preschool classrooms in a school, they experienced 2/3rds less absenteeism due to illness in those rooms.