Can a Home Air Cleaner Fight COVID-19?

When we’re scared, we tend to panic buy. Toilet paper and hand sanitizer flew off the shelves at the beginning of the pandemic. The CDC has confirmed that COVID-19 “can linger in the air for minutes to hours” after a person has left the area. Now, there are worries that air purifiers are also going to vanish from the shelves. But can these air cleaners, which can be expensive, work?

The answer is, “it depends.” A portable home air purifier with a high-efficiency particulate air, or “HEPA,” filter can remove 99.73 percent of airborne particles that are at least 0.3 microns in size. That means they would cut down on the amount of virus in the air. If you need to have someone in your home or live someone who is sick, that will keep you safer. However, health experts suggest you should still wear a mask.  

A HEPA filter is only one tool in fighting the virus. And it has to be used correctly. It’s not a “set it and forget it” solution. Its filter has to be changed so that it can continue to clean the air. It doesn’t kill the virus; it catches the dust or spittle particles the virus is riding on. It has to be a specific size to match the room. A smaller air cleaner won’t clean the room; a large one is a waste of your money. It should be positioned so it blows away from people. You can easily set it up yourself, but it’s not something you just grab off the shelf. So, do a little research before going on Amazon or to the store.

With a HEPA filter, it’s being attached electrostatically to the filter itself so that it cannot then circulate in the air, which is why changing the filters and changing them properly is so important,” says Dr. Gregory Poland, a Mayo Clinic infectious diseases expert.

Dr. Poland believes that if you are going to have people in your home, HEPA filters will help you stay safer. As the weather cools down, we are all more likely to have people inside our homes. “By itself, it’s not satisfactory, so what we’re doing, as we’ve talked about over the months, is we’re layering protections. Let’s be sure the air in our home, if we’re having people to our home, is as safe as it can be. That means a HEPA filter.”

Increasing airflow into and out of your home is a big way to improve air quality and cut down on the amount of virus if you think there is any chance anyone in your home may have been exposed. If you live with people who go out frequently, have any health care workers who visit or have other types of visitors, it’s essential to keep the air flowing. In warmer areas of the country, a box fan in a window pointed outward can help. That pushes the air inside your house out and draws new air in. If you can open multiple windows and get a cross breeze, that’s even better. Some health experts suggest leaving your exhaust fans in the bathroom and kitchen constantly on, if possible.

In regular times, if you have asthma, live in a place with poor air quality or have other health concerns, an air filter may be worth buying. And, with COVID-19, it’s certainly worth considering. However, if you live alone and don’t intend to have anyone in your home, they may be more trouble than they are worth. They cost money, need to be carefully picked and you will still need to wear a mask when someone comes inside. If you are interested in buying one, here is a review of some of the top brands.

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October 09, 2020
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