The beginning of 2020 has seen the spread of the novel coronavirus, which appeared in late 2019. For those of us who haven’t been keeping up with the news, the novel coronavirus is a virus that causes flu-like symptoms and has spread to many parts of the world.
As with any contagious disease, many people are opting to keep their kids home from school or even stay home themselves to prevent exposure. In fact, in some parts of the U.S. schools have been sending students home to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. With everyone cooped up in the house, a new threat emerges: poor indoor air quality.
After talk of a new and serious disease, indoor air quality seems like a bit of a let-down. However, indoor air quality is as important as ever and even ties into the new coronavirus. In this article, we are going to address why it is imperative to maintain your home’s air quality during the new coronavirus outbreak. But first, let’s discuss the novel coronavirus for some context.
What Is the New Coronavirus?
The novel coronavirus is a respiratory virus first appearing in China in late 2019. Since then, the new coronavirus has spread to other regions, including North America, Europe, South Asia, and parts of South America. The virus itself is referred to as SARS-CoV-2, and the infection that it causes is called COVID-19.
Why is it called “new coronavirus”?
Well, SARS-CoV-2 is “new” because it was detected in humans beginning in late 2019, probably after jumping species. Prior to this timeframe, SARS-CoV-2 had not infected any humans (that we know of). The second part of the name comes from a large family of viruses known as coronaviruses, which are common in humans and many species of animal.
Because the new coronavirus is a recent development, we don’t have the same breadth of information that we have on other more established diseases like the flu. Scientists and medical researchers are working to isolate how the new coronavirus is transmitted and to create a vaccine.
Is the new coronavirus dangerous or deadly?
As we discussed above, there is still a lot of information that we don’t have about the novel coronavirus. In serious cases, the new coronavirus can be deadly. As of today, there have been over 4,000 deaths from the new coronavirus. However, a preliminary study based on coronavirus cases in China indicates that the majority of cases are mild, and that vulnerable populations with preexisting conditions seem to be more likely to develop a serious case.
Who are the most at risk of a serious case of the new coronavirus?
Much like the flu, people with preexisting conditions and weakened immune systems seem to be at greater risk of serious symptoms. Some examples are older adults and people with:
- Heart disease
- Lung disease
- Other chronic conditions
If you fall into any of these populations, please take extra precautions to protect yourself and reduce exposure to the novel coronavirus.
At the moment, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America does not have a definite answer for asthmatics. Asthmatics that use oral corticosteroids may have a dampened immune system and may be more exposed to the virus. As always, the priority is managing your asthma.
How to stay safe during the coronavirus outbreak
To stay safe from the novel coronavirus, the CDC recommends the following:
- Washing your hands often with soap and water
- Avoiding people with cold-like symptoms
- Clean and disinfect common areas and frequently used items
- Avoid touching your nose, eyes, and mouth
- Staying hydrated and healthy
The CDC and WHO do not recommend wearing masks, as there isn’t enough supply for everyone, and medical professionals need these masks to deal with all kinds of diseases, not just the new coronavirus. There's no guarantee that masks can effectively reduce personal risk of catching the new coronavirus, and masks are usually used for people who are already infected.
Why Should We Care about Air Quality during the Coronavirus Outbreak?
Now that we know some basic information about the new coronavirus, let’s discuss air quality and how it relates to the new coronavirus.
As new cases pop up as the days go on, more and more people will either choose to self-quarantine to protect others or stay home to avoid contact with potential carriers. These are good choices for preventing the spread of the disease, but may harm your indoor air quality in the process.
Indoor air pollutants like mold, dander, and bacteria are common in households and are relatively harmless if kept under control. The more you’re cooped up in your house, however, the more likely you could experience some adverse health effects.
Everyone is rushing to pick up disinfecting sprays and wipes to transform their homes into cleanrooms. Much like self-quarantine, this is an effective way of preventing disease transmission, but presents some dangers when applied without proper ventilation. Disinfectants off-gas VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, which can weaken the immune system. As your immune system is your primary line of defense against the new coronavirus, VOCs emitted from disinfectants may limit your capacity to fight off the new coronavirus and other infections.
Likewise, poor indoor air quality is especially harmful to people with respiratory conditions and older adults, the same populations most at risk of developing serious symptoms with the new coronavirus. Symptom flare ups could trigger a trip to the hospital, which can also increase your risk of picking up the new coronavirus or other diseases like the flu. During this new coronavirus outbreak, good indoor air quality is indispensable for people in susceptible populations.
What Are Some Ways to Maintain Good Air Quality?
Since we know that air quality is a vital component of a healthy living environment, how can we improve our air quality? We’ve put together some practical tips below.
Let in some fresh air
During this disease outbreak, people are rushing to disinfect their homes with sprays and disinfecting wipes. While these items are useful for destroying viruses, disinfecting products contain VOCs, which can fuel respiratory infections and irritate asthma.
VOCs are not produced only by disinfectants. Paints, cleaners, and off-gassing from an assortment of products also create VOCs, and one of the best ways to get rid of VOCs in your home is through ventilation. Opening a window will allow the trapped gases to escape and will dilute any remaining VOCs with fresh air, which will keep your immune system in fighting shape and reduce any irritation of preexisting respiratory conditions.
Invest in an Air Purifier
One powerful piece of technology that will help you bust air pollution in your home is an air purifier. Especially for those who live in polluted areas, turning on your air purifiers after you open the window is a great way to let in fresh air while reducing harmful particles.
While there are many types of air purifiers, the air purifier you should look out for is a HEPA purifier with a genuine HEPA filter. Designed to remove particulate matter from circulating air, HEPA purifiers use a fan to draw in air and force it through a finely woven, multi-layered filter that traps the vast majority of floating particles. Activated carbon purifiers can help remove VOCs, as well.
Get An Air Quality Monitor
When it comes to indoor air quality, utilizing an air quality monitor is essential in maintaining your indoor environment and maximizing your other gadgets.
Air quality monitors, like the Laser Egg, complement air purifiers and detects pollutants in your air, so that you have a clear picture of what you are breathing. An air quality monitor can also help you test if your purifier is working or if you need to open the windows.
Curb any smoking
Tobacco smoke can tank your air quality, even if you yourself don’t smoke. The smoke from cigarettes, cigars, or pipes contains over 70 chemicals known to cause cancer, and secondhand smoke has contributed to around 2.5 million nonsmoker deaths since 1965.
The best way to eliminate the dangers of tobacco smoke is to completely remove smoking from your home. Opening windows and turning on an air purifier may help reduce the concentration of smoke in your home, but studies show that there is no safe level of tobacco smoke.
Keep up the spring cleaning
Dust mites and molds can be blown up into the air, hurting your air quality and posing potential health risks. Regularly wiping down surfaces and vacuuming will prevent dust particles or organic matter from building up in your home and your air.
Reliable Resources For Coronavirus Information
The coronavirus situation is constantly evolving as new cases are reported and new data comes to light. The sources below present the most up-to-date and reliable information you can use to monitor the ongoing coronavirus outbreak:
For further information about the link between air quality and health, check out these articles below: