This Harvard trained medical doctor was perplexed why some locations seem to harbor sicker people than others.
Working in Boston at a major teaching hospital, Dr. Stephanie Taylor wondered why some of her pediatric patients came down with infections and flu even though the hospital had launched major efforts to reduce infection.
She thought the design of the building might have some influence. She set out to find out more.
Gaining an additional degree in architecture, Dr. Taylor, studied buildings and their occupants human health.
With a study of 370 patients and 8 million data points, she found it wasn't hand washing or the number of visitors to a patient's room, but the consistent factor associated with a higher infection rate was dry air!
“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."
Additional studies have validated that finding. A team from the Mayo Clinic found that a humidified classroom had two-thirds lower rates of flu absenteeism.
What do we know? That airborne particles are very much alive and able to pass on infection. When they land on a person, they are seeking out a source of re-hydration because we are basically 60% water. When the particle lands on a person, it can start reinfecting the host.
It may sound too simple but when the relative humidity is kept between 40% to 60% that is the "sweet spot" that minimizes infection. Measure relative humidity through a hydrometer. Cost about $10. Increase humidity with a humidifier.
Taylor lectures on her findings and even her husband has found his winter respiratory problems have disappeared when she practices what she preaches. She keeps humidity around 40% at home, even with a wood stove.
Also note- when you feel tired in the afternoon, add water. Fatigue may be a symptom of dehydration.
Forbes on Dr. Taylor (here)
YouTube on Dr. Taylor (here)
Amazon hydrometers (here)
ASHRAE, The Essential Role of Indoor Air (here)
Global Health and Pharma, Dry Air is Flu's Best Friend, July 2019 (here)