Gutbliss - Dr. Robynne Chutkan


Open Air Could Help Combat COVID-19

Fresh air and sunlight could be important factors in combating the Coronavirus. Past studies have highlighted the phenomenon called the “open-air factor” (OAF), defined as the “germicidal constituent in outdoor air that reduces the survival and infectivity of pathogens”, which has been proven to reduce the survival and infectivity of harmful bacteria such as Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus epidermidis, group C streptococcus, and the influenza virus. In fact, open-air therapy was the standard treatment for infectious diseases before antibiotics were introduced. Sunlight levels also provide some protection against pathogens: A 2019 study showed that sunlight levels are inversely correlated with influenza transmission.

Not only does spending time outside protect against viral transmission and reduce the survival of pathogenic microbes, but it also helps support the immune system. Sunlight is our main source of vitamin-D, a vitamin that plays a key role in optimizing our immunity. Additionally, a 2016 study found that separate from its vitamin-D-making capabilities, sunlight actually “energizes” T-cells, the immune cells that fight infection; the low levels of blue light present in the sun’s rays speed up T-cell movement, optimizing their response to pathogens. 

Takeaway: You might be wondering how we can take advantage of the open-air factor when we’re being told to isolate ourselves and “stay home”. While we don’t recommend spending time outside with others or in close proximity, we do recommend spending time out-of-doors while diligently practicing social distancing. This might look like time spent in your backyard, on your front patio, or rooftop deck at least 6 to 10 feet from those around you. You can also go on long hikes, walks, bike rides, and runs in uncrowded areas. If you’re unable to leave your home, opening your windows can be a great alternative to spending time outside. Some studies show that increasing the ventilation in an indoor space can actually mimic the OAF. Not only is fresh air and outdoor time important for your overall health and immunity, it’s also paramount for your mental health in these times of social isolation. At Gutbliss, we recommend spending at least 1 hour outside or exposed to fresh air daily, and more if you’re able!

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