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Update: also see “Don’t Be Cowed: Shelter, But Get Outside

Patients with viral and bacterial infections seem to respond better if exposed to sunshine and fresh air. In fact, anyone hoping to keep infections at bay would do well to get outside in the sun for a while every day. A friend’s post alerted me to this fascinating article in Medium.com: “Coronavirus and the Sun: a Lesson from the 1918 Influenza Pandemic“, by Richard Hobday. It is well-sourced, though the references aren’t hyperlinked. Here’s the main point:

“... records from the 1918 pandemic suggest one technique for dealing with influenza — little-known today — was effective. … Put simply, medics found that severely ill flu patients nursed outdoors recovered better than those treated indoors. A combination of fresh air and sunlight seems to have prevented deaths among patients; and infections among medical staff. There is scientific support for this. Research shows that outdoor air is a natural disinfectant. Fresh air can kill the flu virus and other harmful germs. Equally, sunlight is germicidal and there is now evidence it can kill the flu virus.

On the last assertion, see here. Viruses always ebb as the weather warms in the spring. Light conditions improve, which might be more important than temperature: UV light is thought to kill germs of many kinds. Moreover, Vitamin D is generally protective against infections, and a deficiency is thought to increase Covid-19 risk.

Hobday goes on to describe the Open Air Factor, which probably is related to the presence of ozone, but maybe other curatives:

Doctors who had first-hand experience of open-air therapy at the hospital in Boston were convinced the regimen was effective. It was adopted elsewhere. If one report is correct, it reduced deaths among hospital patients from 40 per cent to about 13 per cent. …

Patients treated outdoors were less likely to be exposed to the infectious germs that are often present in conventional hospital wards. They were breathing clean air in what must have been a largely sterile environment. We know this because, in the 1960s, Ministry of Defence scientists proved that fresh air is a natural disinfectant. Something in it, which they called the Open Air Factor, is far more harmful to airborne bacteria — and the influenza virus — than indoor air. They couldn’t identify exactly what the Open Air Factor is. But they found it was effective both at night and during the daytime. 

I’m not sure they were able to control for the relative absence of germs in fresh air, as opposed to the presence of something beneficial, but it’s certainly intriguing.

So whether you’re still on the “office team” or otherwise on the job, try to get outside! Whether you’re in a Covid-19 self-quarantine or worried about catching it, get outside if you can. Get some sun and fresh air, especially after a thunderstorm, when the air is rich with ozone. But drink plenty of fluids and don’t get burned! I’ll be hanging out in my back yard.