Hand washing and wearing masks, along with frequent cleaning and disinfecting, provide a good start in reducing the spread of viruses that cause outbreaks of respiratory diseases in senior living communities.
Yet each of these measures depend upon vigilance and effort on the part of staff, residents, and visitors, and the cost of these disposable items adds up quickly.
In contrast to the cost of single-use, disposable safeguards, a commercial humidification system can last for over 20 years while providing broad protection for building occupants against viruses, such as COVID-19 and the seasonal flu, as well as providing protection against allergens and other occupant discomforts. In fact, there have been many studies over the years that show the health benefits to maintaining the relative humidity between 40 and 60% relative humidity (RH) in indoor environments.
Here are the top reasons why humidification systems are a must for senior living operators in the fight against viral infections.
“Set it and forget it”: benefits to staff
One of the key benefits of a humidification system is that it does not add to the workflow of frontline care staff, as it is part of the building’s HVAC system. It offers a “set it and forget it” benefit day to day, while being easy to care for within the facility’s overall HVAC system maintenance program.
“Just like air conditioning or heating or anything else in that system, a humidifier operates without the care staff or residents having to do anything,” says Valerie Bradt, marketing communications manager of DriSteem, a global provider of humidification systems.
For care staff, the knowledge that there is an additional tool in place to fight COVID, one that requires no additional work for them and provides extra peace of mind.
Works with PPE and other “hands-on” approaches
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Fighting viruses in senior housing communities — including, of course, COVID-19 and its variants — requires a multifaceted approach. Using personal protective equipment (PPE) remains vital, as does actively monitoring residents through both technological and human means.
And of course, even a smart technology system, such as smart home devices or remote patient monitoring, still requires a human interpretation of data.
A humidification system augments all of that, and works in concert with it.
“We’re all getting tired of wearing masks and gloves and using hand sanitizer,” Bradt says. “Humidification isn’t meant to replace those measures, but it does add an extra layer of protection against not only the COVID-19 virus, but also against other viruses that can often appear in senior living communities.”
Fights COVID and other viruses
Of course, ease-of-use is irrelevant if humidification itself isn’t also fighting viruses. But it is, in a few different ways, from reducing the size of virus droplets in the air to helping stave off the infection itself.
“Reducing viral transmission — that’s what’s most important in senior living,” Bradt says. “So it’s important to consider how viruses behave and spread through a community.’”
Low ambient humidity (below 40% RH) reduces the droplet size of the virus, which allows it to remain airborne for 36 to 72 hours and travel further distances, leaving it as a greater threat for a longer period of time. Contrast that with a higher humidity level (between 40% and 60% RH), which increases the droplet size and makes the droplets fall out of the air and onto surfaces, making them easier to clean and remove virus from the space.
“The other thing humidity will help with is our body’s natural ability to fight disease,” Bradt says. “When we get sick, a properly humidified environment will make it easier for our body to fight an infection by protecting our respiratory system, including our nose, throat, and lungs. It also supports our recovery from illness and helps our immune system fight off infections.”
Lastly, there is a physical comfort to humidity in the air, because dry indoor air can increase incidences of cracked skin and dehydration. This can be especially threatening to vulnerable populations, such as older residents who are often immune-system compromised.
“Humidity makes people more comfortable even if they’re not aware of why,” Bradt says.
Delivers long-term benefits
While there is a short-term, day-to-day “set it and forget it” benefit to a commercial humidification system, there is also a long-term “get it and keep it” benefit, as the system can last for up to 20 years. And with health benefits beyond COVID-19, that long-term benefit delivers a valuable return on investment year after year after year.
“Hopefully we’ll see an eventual end to the pandemic,” Bradt says. “When we do, the humidification system will still hold its value protecting against other infections and common discomforts caused by dry air.”
This article is sponsored by DriSteem. To learn more about DriSteem and how humidification can work to improve the safety of your senior living community, visit DriSteem’s resources on Humidification in Senior Living.