How to Best Prepare for Cold and Flu Season This Year
Decrease your risk of catching a cold or the flu with these tips.
As temperatures cool and we approach the cold and flu season, the importance of staying healthy and avoiding illness becomes paramount. In our attempt to best prepare for the cold and flu season and to safeguard our health, we often emphasize practices like regular hand-washing, avoiding close contact with sick individuals, and refraining from touching our faces. While these measures are undoubtedly critical, there's another aspect of illness prevention that tends to go unnoticed but is equally, if not more, important – the quality of the air we breathe indoors.
Explore how better indoor air quality can help you during cold and flu season, helping you and your guests to breathe easier, healthier, and safer in the months ahead.
Flu Symptoms vs. Common Cold Symptoms
The common cold and the flu are caused by different viruses but sharing many similar symptoms, making it challenging to differentiate between the two. Flu symptoms typically present as more severe, including fever or chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, and fatigue. On the other hand, a common cold is more likely to result in a runny or stuffy nose. These respiratory illnesses are not just inconvenient but, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), can also have significant health implications, especially for individuals with pre-existing conditions like asthma.
Colds and the flu primarily spread through respiratory droplets released when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Additionally, contact with contaminated surfaces followed by touching the mouth, nose, or eyes can also lead to infection. To reduce your risk of falling victim to these seasonal maladies, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers several guidelines:
- Frequent Hand-washing: Regularly wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. If soap is unavailable, using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer can also be effective in killing germs.
- Avoid Touching Your Face: Refrain from touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. These areas serve as entry points for viruses.
- Social Distancing: Stay away from individuals who are sick to minimize the chances of close contact and transmission.
While these precautions are crucial, there is another aspect of cold and flu prevention that often goes overlooked – indoor air quality (IAQ). Given that we spend approximately 90 percent of our time indoors, the quality of the air we breathe within our homes plays a significant role in our overall health and susceptibility to respiratory illnesses.
How Better Indoor Air Quality Can Help During Cold and Flu Season
Here's how you can enhance your indoor air quality to bolster your defenses against colds and the flu:
Managing Indoor Relative Humidity
During the colder months, we all crave the warmth and comfort of a cozy home. However, running your furnace or heat pump can inadvertently lower the indoor relative humidity, making it easier for viruses to remain airborne. To counteract this, maintaining the proper humidity levels in your home is crucial. The ideal range is between 30 percent to 60 percent relative humidity. Proper humidity not only reduces the risk of contracting airborne illnesses and experiencing common cold symptoms, but also benefits your skin and preserves furniture and floors.
One effective way to manage indoor humidity is by using a smart thermostat such as the Trane ComfortLink® II XL1050, which allows for precise control of your indoor environment. Coupled with a whole-home humidifier, you can ensure that your home's humidity levels remain in the optimal range throughout the winter. The Trane product lineup includes a wide range of solutions that tie into your home’s ductwork system, including steam humidifiers, fan-powered humidifiers, and bypass humidifiers.
In certain geographical areas, a whole-home dehumidifier may be necessary to maintain comfort year-round.
Keeping Your Air Clean
Standard air filters in your HVAC system are designed to remove common irritants like dust, pollen, and pet dander but are not fine enough to capture virus particles. To improve your home's air quality, consider two complementary solutions:
Adequate ventilation is essential to avoiding common cold and flu symptoms, especially in tightly sealed, energy-efficient homes. Trane's inline ventilators help manage temperature and humidity while exhausting stale air and indoor pollutants. Energy recovery ventilators also enhance ventilation efficiency by retaining heat and moisture from the exhaust air.
Whole Home Electronic Air Cleaner
Unlike standard filters, electronic air cleaners use electrostatic collection cells to capture particles, including viruses. One notable example is the Trane CleanEffects® system, certified as asthma and allergy-friendly™ by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Independent testing has found the air cleaner has been documented to remove more than 99 percent of airborne pollutants as small as 0.3 microns, including mold spores, allergens, bacteria, and some pollen1. Compared to traditional HEPA room filters, it is eight times more effective and up to 100 times more effective than a standard 1-inch filter. Furthermore, it reduces potential asthma and allergy triggers, minimizing the need for frequent dusting. Additionally, this system is easy to clean and does not require costly filter replacements.
CleanEffects® and Covid-19
In the context of the ongoing concern surrounding Covid-19, air filtration alone cannot entirely eliminate the risk of transmission. However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recognized that it can contribute to reducing the potential for indoor transmission of the virus when used in conjunction with other preventive measures such as social distancing and mask-wearing.
Standard air filters and portable air cleaners are generally ineffective at capturing Covid-19 virus particles due to their small size. Trane CleanEffects® Whole Home Air Cleaner employs highly efficient electrostatic technology to remove the virus from indoor air. Independent testing found that it removes over 99 percent of the surrogate for the virus within 30 minutes2. Moreover, it reduces virus particles four times faster than ventilation alone.
Prepare for Cold and Flu Season: Contact the Experts
Taking proactive measures to prepare for the cold and flu season and avoiding flu symptoms extends beyond practicing good hygiene. Knowing how better indoor air quality can help during cold and flu season is a critical component of safeguarding your health and the health of your loved ones. If you're interested in learning more about improving the air quality in your home, consider connecting with a local HVAC expert for guidance and solutions tailored to your specific needs. By combining these efforts with established preventive measures, you can significantly reduce the risk of falling ill during the upcoming cold and flu season.
Interested in learning more about how to improve the air quality in your home? Contact your local Trane dealer.
1The asthma & allergy friendly® Certification Mark is awarded only to those products that are scientifically proven to reduce exposure to asthma and allergy triggers. Since CleanEffects® filters down to .1 micron, or 700 times smaller than a human hair, it is extremely effective at removing spores, mold, pollen, pet dander, dirt and dust, reducing the total volume of particulates in the air you breathe. 65 million Americans were found to be impacted by asthma and allergies during the March 12, 2020 Asthma & Allergy Friendly® Certification Program
2The CleanEffects® Whole Home Air Cleaner, when used in accordance with the manufacturer’s directions, is proven to be effective at removing virus particles. Effective removal rate based on independent testing results using MS-2 bacteriophage, a bacteria representative of virus-sized particles like SARS-CoV-2 that causes Covid-19. Removal rate based on an area of 1,007 ft³