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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Not Of This World

    Post Grandma's moistening kettle may have held off flu

    Grandma may have been right about keeping a teakettle warming on the stove in winter to moisten the air. Studies of seasonal influenza have long found indications that flu spreads better in dry air. Now, new research being published Tuesday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, indicates that the key is the absolute humidity — which measures the amount of water present in the air, regardless of temperature — not the more commonly reported relative humidity.

    Relative humidity varies depending on air temperature; absolute humidity doesn't.

    "The correlations were surprisingly strong. When absolute humidity is low, influenza virus survival is prolonged and transmission rates go up," said Jeffrey Shaman, an Oregon State University atmospheric scientist who specializes in ties between climate and disease transmission

    For the public, he added, it offers a "more elegant explanation for why we see these seasonal spikes" in flu. And, he added, it shows that in some cases it may be worthwhile to add humidity to the air. Beware of overdoing it, though — too much humidity can lead to other problems, such as mold.

    The correlation with flu and low humidity is important because in cold winter weather, when flu is most common, even a high relative humidity reading may indicate little actual moisture in the air, and the less moisture there is, the happier the flu virus seems to be.

    Shaman and co-author Melvin Kohn, an epidemiologist with the Oregon Department of Health Services, reanalyzed data from a study published in 2007 in the journal PLoS Pathogens by researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. That report found there were more flu cases when it was colder and drier.


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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    I thought heat dried the air and the cold put moisture in the air... I'm sooooooooo confused!

    “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sr.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    I'm no expert but I think heat evaporates water from lakes, rivers and ponds-which puts more moisture in the air. However, unless you have a lake in your house-turning the heater on in the winter will dry out your air even more.
    For those of us who live near large bodies of water (for me it's 5 mins to the gulf, about 2 to the "back bay") our biggest issue is mold.
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