Does flu season usually spell trouble for you? A 2018 study published inClinical Infectious Diseases found that on average, about 8% of the entire US population gets infected each season. In addition, more than 200,000 people in the country are hospitalized every year for respiratory and heart conditions associated with flu infections.
We know that you come down with the flu when the virus spreads through the air. In other words, the air you breathe can make you ill. Does this mean that there could be a connection between air pollution and the flu? Does polluted air put you in a position where you’re likelier to get sick?
Exposure to Air Pollution Increases Your Risk of Getting the Flu
Indeed, research has found that breathing in polluted air can increase your chances of coming down with the flu. Here’s why.
When virus droplets attach to particles in polluted air, they’re able to remain airborne longer. So, this means when an infected person sneezes or coughs, the virus will be able to travel much farther for much longer than the actual duration and distance covered by the sneeze/cough.
One of the most common pollutants associated with flu is PM10 particulates. In one study out of Hong Kong, a positive correlation was found between air pollution and hospital admissions for pneumonia, asthma, and flu. The research also found that the risk for flu increased as the levels of PM10, nitrogen oxide, and ozone increased.
There is also a link between ambient particulate matter PM2.5 and asthma, eczema, and other chronic conditions. If you have a genetic predisposition to these conditions, air pollution can trigger these genes to be expressed.
On the other hand, those who don’t have a preexisting condition or a predisposition will still be negatively affected with chronic exposure to PM2.5. Studies have shown that exposure to this can lead to chronic airway inflammation and makes you at risk for other long-term complications.
Besides particulate matter, a similar correlation has been found between being exposed to diesel exhaust and getting the flu. A study in the US found that those who had been exposed to diesel fumes had higher levels of viral RNA in their system. This means the detrimental effect of poor air quality on our immune system makes us less equipped to fight off the virus.
How Air Pollution Makes Flu Symptoms Worse
Air pollution has been found to make flu symptoms worse for those who are already infected. Basically, what happens is that the particles rub against the bronchial tubes and cause irritation and inflammation. That’s why if you live in a highly polluted area, during the flu season, you might feel like your flu symptoms are even worse than they might otherwise be.
How to Protect Yourself Against the Flu
The flu is a contagious disease and is not to be taken likely. If you’re wondering what steps you can take to protect yourself and your family from the influenza virus, here are some of our most effective tips.
- Get the flu vaccine. The CDC says that individuals six months and older can get a flu vaccine every year. Note that because the flu strain changes each season, so too does the vaccine. What worked last year might not work this year. If you are at risk of serious complications of flu, it’s even more important to get vaccinated on time.
- Take preventive actions. By preventive actions, we mean avoiding close contact with infected people, covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, washing your hands often, regularly disinfecting surfaces, and avoiding touching your face.
- Boost your immune system. Your immune system needs enough of the right nutrients to do its job. Eat foods and ingredients like citrus fruits, ginger, garlic, and spinach to keep your body strong.
- Check the air quality in your area regularly. Use AirNow to keep yourself updated on the air quality in your area. If the pollution level is high, stay indoors, keep your house clean, don’t smoke (and avoid secondhand smoke), and avoid burning anything.
- Put an air purifier in your home. Contrary to the common belief that only outdoor air can be polluted, there’s increasing evidence that indoor air is even more polluted. And because the average American spends 90% of their time indoors, it’s important to get rid of indoor pollutants as much as possible. The best way to do this is to use an air purifier to rid your home of airborne contaminants, dust, mold spores, and smoke, as well as bacteria and viruses.
Breathe Easier with Sans
What makes Sans different?
Our state-of-the-art three-stage filtration system and UV-C light sterilization are unparalleled when it comes to purifying the air that you breathe.
The purifier first captures larger particulate matter (like dust and hair) through the pre-filter and then traps smaller particles as tiny as 0.1 microns with 99.95% efficiency with a medical-grade HEPA 13 filter. This means it can trap bacteria and viruses that can make your family sick.
As you likely know, pollutants can also come in the form of gases. The activated carbon filter within Sans takes care of these harmful gases by neutralizing them. Finally, the pathogens that get trapped in the filters will be destroyed by pulses of UV-C light to ensure that they won’t grow back.
Both in and out of flu season, Sans helps you maintain a safe and healthy environment for you and your family.
Ready to feel the difference? Shop with Sans today.