Between January 26th and February 10th, 2020, a family from Wuhan, China visited Guangzhou, China where they dined at a restaurant. A few days later, 9 people from 3 different families who dined at nearby tables were found infected. China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention found in its research that the central air conditioning at the restaurant aided in the transmission of the virus, infecting the other 9 people from 3 families who dined at the same restaurant.
So, does it mean that COVID-19 can spread with the use of air conditioners?
Recognizing the rise of this concern combined with the summer season taking a leap, Indian Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ISHRAE) organized a COVID task force and prepared guidelines on the usage of air conditioning and ventilating systems amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
The guidelines had suggestions related to all kinds of cooling systems we might use at our houses, including air conditioners, coolers and fans.
Recently, PIB Fact Check, which is Press Information Bureau’s official handle to counter misinformation, posted: Window ACs are ok, but not central air-conditioning. Unlike central air conditioning systems, home ACs are stand-alone appliances and circulate the air within smaller areas, like the perimeters of your room. Hence, the ACs used for residential purposes are safer as compared to central air conditioning. The room air conditioners help at controlling the room’s temperature and reducing humidity. However, if there’s a family member who has been tested positive with COVID, then he/she should be isolated in a well-ventilated room. ISHRAE has advised to:
– Set the temperature of the AC between 24℃ to 30℃.
– Maintain relative humidity between 40% and 70%.
– In already humid areas, set the temperature closer to 24℃ to maintain the ideal humidity levels.
– In areas with dry climate, set the temperature closer to or at 30°C and maintain relative humidity at 40% or above. If it falls below 40%, increase the humidity by keeping a pan full of water in the room and letting the water evaporate. Use fans to increase air movement.
– Have proper ventilation in the room. Keep the windows slightly open. If toilets and kitchens are equipped with exhaust fans, keep them switched on to prevent dust.
Also known as evaporative coolers, these are highly effective in hot and dry climates. These draw the air from outside, which passes through the wet hay-pads present on 3 sides of the cooler. As the hot and dry air passes through the wet pads, it becomes 15% cooler than the outside air. It was advised that:
– The cooler should ideally be placed outdoors or on windows to ensure proper ventilation.
– Use an air filter to prevent the entry of dust particles.
– Keep the cooler tank clean and disinfect it regularly.
– Leave the windows open to give passage to the humid air.
– Portable coolers that don’t draw air from outdoors are not recommended as they don’t provide proper ventilation and don’t cool the room effectively, increasing the humidity within the room.
Fans or pedestal fans
Though fans alone may not be very effective at cooling the rooms in the hot summer days, they do provide some extent of comfort by dispersing the air in all directions. It is recommended to:
– Keep the windows open when only fans are being used.
– Use exhaust fans to allow proper ventilation.
With the heat wave hovering over North India, it is a necessity to cool down our room and bring it to a comfortable temperature. This can only be accomplished by using fans, coolers or air conditioners. However, with the COVID-19 outbreak posing a challenge on our well-being, it is important to know what are the ideal ways of staying cool while staying safe.
(The article is reviewed by Dr. Swati Mishra, Medical Editor)
1. COVID-19 Outbreak Associated with Air Conditioning in Restaurant, Guangzhou, China, 2020. https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/26/7/20-0764_article
2. ISHRAE COVID-19 Guidelines 05.cdr. https://ishrae.in/mailer/ISHRAE_COVID-19_Guidelines.pdf