Updated: Nov 14, 2020
Air. We take it so much for granted, yet often gave it so little thought. Until now.
The constant news stories on this pandemic, the sea of face-masks, having to keep our distance from strangers and loved ones have all focused our thoughts on something that is so essential for life.... but is now also a threat.
Of course, Covid-19 can be transmitted through contact too – hence constant hand-washing and regular sanitising of surfaces and anything else we may touch. But air transmission due to aerosol is a major concern as we try to go about our daily activities. Keeping a distance of 2m and wearing masks can help reduce transmission by large droplets when people cough, sneeze or even shout But, more and more scientists are raising concern about the tiny droplets that can spread much further and linger in the air. Being indoors in poorly ventilated rooms increases concentration of these airborne particles and, as we head into winter, we need to think carefully about how we protect ourselves, our loved ones and colleagues.
But whilst Covid is taking the limelight, we shouldn’t forget what else may be in the air that we breathe.
It’s 'flu and cold season. Whilst they seem little to worry about in comparison, we mustn’t forget that flu can kill too – around 17,000 people per year in the UK, around 500,000 globally! And both colds and flu can lead to lost days in education and the workplace, with resultant drop in productivity.
Catching a simple cold or seasonal 'flu at the moment, though, is even more of an issue, as anyone with respiratory symptoms needs to isolate for fear of Covid, even if it turns out not to be the case on testing. And close contacts need to isolate too - something that would never have happened in the days of colds and flu alone. And that has huge knock-on effects as well.
Finally, sadly, the environmental issues we face have been sidelined by this terrible pandemic. Yet, air pollution from industry, vehicles and climate change is also important to address as it is a significant trigger for asthma. Circulating moulds and fungi also add to the misery for some asthma and allergy sufferers.
Asthma UK estimates that over 5 million people in Britain are currently living with the condition - one in 11 children and one in 12 adults. It hospitalises someone every eight minutes.
So, maybe we should respect our air quality a bit more. Good ventilation in our homes will help...as long as we pull on a sweater rather than turn up the heating to compensate for the cold air! And as long as the air outside isn't full of pollutants. Which is probably why air purifiers are gaining in popularity as a way of controlling your local environment - in home, office and even your car!
Read more about the science of air purifiers and how they may help with allergies, infections and more.