University students live in close proximity to one another – attending sporting events, living in the dormitories, collaborating in lecture halls, and dining together in campus cafeterias – which creates many opportunities for viruses like SARS-CoV-2 and seasonal influenza viruses to easily spread. Regulating the relative humidity (RH) within the enclosed spaces of universities can add an additional layer of defense against the spread of viruses, protecting the well-being of the staff and students.
Humidification improves indoor air quality because bacteria and viruses thrive in dry air. Studies have shown an increase in potential respiratory illnesses when room RH drops below 40 percent. Keeping RH levels within a range of 40 to 60 percent not only decreases bacteria and viruses in the air, it also hinders the development of fungi, mites, chemical interactions, and ozone production. The result is reduced occurrences of allergic rhinitis, respiratory infections, and asthma among staff, professors, facility, and students. To ensure that RH levels do not rise above 60 percent, responsive humidification system control is essential.
As universities navigate through these challenging times, they are faced with declining enrollment and need new ways of keeping their staff, faculty, and students safe. Learn how controlling relative humidity can help.
In areas where students and staff spend most of their time, such as dormitories and lecture halls, maintaining RH levels between 30% – 60% in highly used areas may lower stress levels.1 A study comparing occupants in an environment with a RH level between 30% – 60% and those in drier conditions measured a 25% difference in stress response levels.
When the RH level is 23% or less, viruses retain about 70% – 77% infectivity compared to only 15–22% of viruses where the RH level is greater than or equal to 43%.2 Maintaining RH levels between 40 to 60 percent not only decreases bacteria and viruses in the air, but hinders the development of fungi, mites, chemical interactions, and ozone production.
Only 46% of university students 18-24 years old currently attending a two- or four-year college or university get an annual flu shot.3 Using non-pharmaceutical interventions like humidification to complement vaccinations is a safe, efficient, and easy way to reduce the spread of influenza and protect staff members and students.
An assessment administered to Villanova University undergraduate students found 17% of those assessed said cold/flu/sore throats had affected their academic performance.4 Properly controlled RH reduces the spread of airborne viruses.
Maintain the recommended RH level especially within dormitories and cafeterias, to lessen the impact of contagious respiratory illnesses like seasonal influenza and the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Absences of staff, faculty, and students increase during the dry winter months, often due to chronic respiratory illnesses. Research has established that flu outbreaks can be predicted 14 to 16 days after outdoor humidity bottoms out in the continental United States.
Dry air can cause damage to furnishings, musical instruments, gymnasiums, lecture halls, and other building materials, Humidification can protect against: