TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – As Kansas experiences colder temperatures during the winter months, medical experts say the weather could increase the spread of the coronavirus.
According to Dr. Steven Stites, pulmonologist and chief medical officer at the University of Kansas Health System, winter weather conditions can make people more susceptible to viruses. Stites said it was important to stay vigilant as the state begins to experience dry, cold temperatures.
“Your airways can make subtle changes in temperature, your nose, mouth, or oral cavity, and that can change your body’s response to certain viruses,” he said.
Stites stated that viruses like influenza and rhinovirus tend to predominate seasonally and that the effects of colder weather on the coronavirus are still being studied. However, it is likely that extreme temperatures could have similar effects.
Some studies show that low humidity in winter can increase the potential for infection. A review published in the Annual Review of Virology examines the seasonal effects on respiratory infections. The review concludes that a relative humidity of 40-60%, which typically occurs in the fall and spring, could be ideal for respiratory health compared to the lower humidity in the fall and spring.
Dr. Stites said while people tend to spend more time indoors when it gets colder outside, he warned that indoors can be just as dangerous.
“There’s not much air movement in a room, building or house compared to outside,” he said. “And as a result, the secretions you breathe out, what we call your breath cloud, tend to hang longer in the floating air, making it easier for people to get infected.”
Stites said some ways people can stay safe in winter temperatures are by following safety precautions like social distancing, wearing face coverings, and proper hygiene. He also said that it is important to make sure that your lungs are healthy by not smoking and to continue to take prescribed medications for people with respiratory diseases such as asthma.