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Good Air Flow May Help Protect from COVID-19

    2020/8/24

    From VOA Learning English, this is the Health & Lifestyle report.

    On Google, one of the most-searched questions related to the coronavirus is: “Can it spread through the air?”

    The answer? Yes. It is possible.

    Keeping windows open can help move good air in and bad out. Here, French singer Stephane Senechal sings from his apartment's open window in Paris. A lockdown was imposed to slow the rate of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) spread, March 24, 2020. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
    Keeping windows open can help move good air in and bad out. Here, French singer Stephane Senechal sings from his apartment's open window in Paris. A lockdown was imposed to slow the rate of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) spread, March 24, 2020. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

    World Health Organization (WHO) officials have said it is possible for COVID-19 to spread in the air under certain conditions. One of these conditions is poor indoor ventilation.

    Ventilation is the movement of air through a space -- especially an indoor or enclosed space. We also describe ventilation as “air flow.”

    Experts say poor ventilation may help the coronavirus stay in the air longer. Fresh air, scientists note, break up virus droplets. And this reduces the chances of transmitting, or spreading, COVID-19.

    The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the United States says that good “ventilation with outside air can help reduce airborne contaminants, including viruses, indoors.”

    Such findings are changing safety requirements for workplaces. VOA Learning English recently wrote about this issue.

    But what about in our homes? What can we do to improve air flow where we live?

    The EPA website lists several ways to increase ventilation in our homes. It also states that, in general, “the greater the number of people in an indoor environment, the greater the need for ventilation with outdoor air.”

    Open windows and doors

    Of course, opening windows and doors is one easy way to let in natural air. However, that may not be enough to increase natural ventilation indoors. If inside and outside temperatures are similar and there is little wind, natural ventilation may be limited.

    You can get better air flow by opening windows or doors at different sides of the home. This is called cross-ventilation. Open the highest and lowest windows in a home at the same time. This can be especially helpful if the windows are on different floors in a building.

    If your windows open at the top and bottom, open the top of one window and the bottom of another. If you only have one window in a room, open both the top and bottom part way. This will increase air flow.

    However, experts warn not to open windows and doors that may cause other health risks. For example, do not open windows if they let in a lot of air pollution. And be sure not to open windows that a child could fall from.

    Use fans

    Fans are also an easy way to move air around. But simply putting one in the middle of a room might not be enough. Here are more suggestions from the EPA.

    Bathroom and kitchens fans are (usually) designed to blow out indoor air. This removes contaminants from the air. So, turn on these fans, if you have them, when the room is in use. Or if possible, keep them running most of the time.

    Use portable fans -- ones you can move around -- with open doors or windows. A fan facing a window blows air out of a room. A fan placed away from a window draws air into a room.

    Also, you can use many fans – blowing air out of one window and drawing it in from another. If you only have one fan, it should blow air in the same direction that the air is naturally moving. However, to help reduce risks of airborne transmission, do not have the fans blowing directly from one person to another.

    When using fans of course be careful of small children. Keep them out of reach of little fingers. Also, make sure the fans will not fall over.

    Use air conditioners and other equipment

    The EPA website also suggests using window air conditioners that have an outdoor air intake. But, it is important to know that some window air conditioners do not have outside air intakes.

    A home’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system is called the HVAC system. HVAC filters and air cleaners are designed to remove pollutants or contaminants from air that passes through them. Experts say that “air cleaning and filtration can help reduce airborne contaminants, including particles containing viruses.”

    The EPA website says if your home’s HVAC system has an outside air intake, open it. Experts advise you to closely look at your HVAC system’s information. You may need an HVAC professional’s help to make sure your system is running correctly.

    Sometimes, ventilating with outdoor air is difficult. For some people, opening windows and doors is not possible because of high temperatures, pollution, or safety risks. In these cases, portable air cleaners may be helpful.

    Use other best practices

    Portable air cleaners and HVAC filters can reduce indoor air pollution. But they cannot remove all pollutants from the air.

    Experts remind us that improving ventilation is just one way to lower the risk of COVID-19. Ventilation should be used along with other best practices suggested by health experts. These practices continue to be social distancing, wearing face masks, cleaning surfaces, and washing hands often.

    And that’s the Health & Lifestyle report.

    I’m Anna Matteo.

    Anna Matteo wrote this story for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

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    Words in This Story

    droplet n. a very small drop of liquid

    contaminant n. something that makes a place or a substance (such as water, air, or food) no longer suitable for use

    fan n. a machine or device that is used for producing a current of air

    draw v. to let air flow through : to cause to move by pulling

    air conditioner n. to equip with a device for cleaning air and controlling its humidity and temperature

    air intaken. any opening, etc, through which air enters, esp for combustion or cooling purposes : a device that allows air to flow into a machine

    filter n. a device that is used to remove something unwanted from a liquid or gas that passes through it

    best practices n. a procedure that has been shown by research and experience to produce optimal results and that is established or proposed as a standard suitable for widespread adoption