Much like a long cold spritz at the end of your daily hot shower (and taking our Leapfrog lactoferrin tablets at the first sign of a sore throat or sniffle), we’re now going to suggest another virus-combatting hack: opening your windows in winter. Why? With coronavirus variants rearing their ugly heads, it’s another simple way to ward off viruses and other pathogens.
Recent research has shown that stuffy indoor sites are among the highest risk venues for the transmission of COVID-19, and that this can easily be minimised by a daily ventilation routine. One of the reasons flu has always spiked in winter, is because we congregate indoors for warmth, and keep our doors and windows closed to conserve heat and reduce heating bills.
A paper of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) from 30th September 2020 suggested that “ventilation should be integral to the COVID-19 risk mitigation strategy for all multi-occupant public buildings and workplaces.”
With the windows all shut, we can find ourselves sitting in invisible viral soup.
Now that we’re spending more time at home than ever before because of coronavirus, the guidance is clear: open your windows or doors for 20 minutes per day if you can. An open window will help lower the spread of the virus to family or housemates, even when you might be asymptomatic. The fresh air turnover will dilute the virus concentration that’s shed from those who are infected, and a lower dose of initial infection can ultimately mean a milder version of the disease.
Bye-Bye, Bad Bugs
Short bursts of 10 to 15 minutes throughout the day – or leaving the window ajar all day – has the potential to reduce the risk of infection from particles by over 70%. In Japan over the last year, inhabitants have been advised to avoid the 3 C’s – closed spaces, close-contact and crowds – and have been recommended to open their windows for several minutes every hour.
Not only can a fresh breeze replace virus-contaminated air with clean air, but there are other important benefits.
We need regular contact with natural microorganisms found in the soil – beneficial bacteria in our environment that repopulate the community of bacteria on the skin. Without this regular contact, our own bugs can fall out of balance and this can weaken our immune systems.
As we don’t often get the chance to get dirty in nature these days – particularly with all this good hand-washing and sanitising going on – an open window allows the outdoor microbiome to mingle with the indoor microbiome, diversifying the good bacteria in our homes. We breathe in this good bacteria to potentially beneficial immunological effect. Stronger immune system? It’s a breeze.
N.B If you live near busy roads with plenty of pollution, an air purifier might be a better option. And don’t forget that a few potted plants at home and buying produce from local farmer’s markets can also help introduce healthy outdoor microbes.