Even with so many new COVID-19 regulations, precautions, and habits, it’s difficult to avoid all traces of the virus. Somebody shopping an aisle over sneezes, and suddenly you’re left wondering whether that person is infected with the coronavirus and if the virus particles in his sneeze will spread into your aisle.
Or the person in front of you in line at the register laughs at a joke, sending particles out of her nose and mouth. You can’t control these situations, but you can control how to protect yourself when there’s risk of coronavirus particles lingering in the air, especially in your own home.
Tip #1: Bring the Outdoors Indoors
At this point in the pandemic, we intuitively understand that the outdoors offers a level of defense against the coronavirus that indoor environment’s do not. In fact, researchers recommend making the indoors more like the outdoors in order to prevent transmission of the virus while you’re inside.
“You limit aerosol transmission by increasing ventilation and increasing air circulation,” explains Seema Lakdawala, a flu researcher at University of Pittsburgh. Try these techniques to put this plan in action:
- Open windows
- Put fans in the windows, facing outward to pull air from the room
- Draw get-togethers into the backyard, porch, or other exterior location
These simple tactics help remove any clouds of virus that might exist in your home.
Tip #2: Use a Reliable Air Purifier
Air filters and purifiers have enjoyed their time in the spotlight during COVID-19. They are designed to filter pollutants or contaminants out of the air. So when you use a high-quality air filter in your home, it’s easy to reduce airborne virus particles in a small space.
Air filters are rated by MERVs, or Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values, which measure a filter’s ability to capture airborne particles. The higher the MERV rating, the better the filter is at trapping tiny particles.
According to the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), all homes should use air filters with a MERV rating of 13 or higher to increase filter performance and capture coronavirus particles in the air.
This is especially important if you often (or ever!) have guests over, or if members of your household work outside the home. Donald Milton, an infectious disease aerobiologist at the University of Maryland, put it plainly: “You wouldn’t drink water downstream from another town without treating it. But we breathe air from other people without treating it.”
Tip #3: Keep on Keeping Your Distance
Wearing a mask and social distancing are ways of life now, and they’re unlikely to disappear anytime soon. Both are simple precautionary measures, so you can insulate yourself from the pandemic by keeping a personal space bubble and wearing your mask snugly over your nose and mouth.
Though achieving “zero risk” is nearly impossible, you can take strategic steps to protecting yourself from lingering virus particles as much as possible.