Q:How can I make our home environmentally healthy and COVID-free this winter?
A:The COVID era will pass, by God’s grace, but healthy home practices are always prudent.
Don’t import: The COVID-19 virus is spread primarily by person-to-person contact, through the air, and from surface contact. Creating an absolutely no-outside-contact “pandemic pod” is the safest solution, but rarely deemed practical in this situation. Many opt for relative safety through limiting outside exposure and self-imposing appropriate quarantine and testing practices. Avoiding entrance of SARS-CoV-2 into our homes through human virus carriers is key. At least half of new infections now come from asymptomatic people unaware of their infectedness. Requiring visitors at the door to be masked and physically distanced and following decontamination routines for all who venture into the public can help.
Keep air clean: While fresh, clean, outdoor air is the gold standard for good health, air carrying automobile and industrial exhaust fumes, chemicals, microsized dust particles, ash, and smoke is decidedly unhealthy. There are trade-offs in trying to be virus-free and seeking healthful indoor air quality in polluted environments. Gas appliances can pose carbon monoxide threats. Heavy drapes and blinds—especially when combined with indoor clothes-dryer venting (high indoor humidity) and leaky plumbing or water seepage—encourage mold and mildew. Solutions to these are apparent. Carpets, paint, aerosol sprays, household chemicals, pesticides, and even air fresheners are often unnoticed threats to health, but being aware is a first step. Tobacco smoke and cooking and fireplace fumes should be minimized. Taking care of these will go a long way toward making our homes healthier.
Good ventilation is essential for health. Open windows to let in sunshine and fresh air to replace stale indoor air, and dilute potential aerosolized virus particles. Reduce the number of people in the same room at any one time. Use a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) purifier and HEPA filters in heating and air-conditioning systems, and replace the filters every six to 12 months. Home dehumidifiers help discourage mold, mildew, bacteria, and viruses. Well-working, externally ventilated exhaust fans promote better circulation in the house. Germicidal ultraviolet lights installed in HVAC ducts or beamed overhead across the most highly occupied rooms destroy mold, bacteria, and viruses. Use nonallergenic plants, such as ferns, aloe, and spider plants, to freshen the air. Use sliced lemon and baking soda to freshen up the kitchen; diffusion with lavender, rosemary, thyme, basil, or mint may be preferable to commercial air fresheners.
Clean surfaces regularly: Regular and more thorough cleaning, especially in high-touch, high-use areas, and appropriate cleaning of shared electronics, is a basic safeguard. Disinfecting using chemical or detergent agents or UV light goes beyond cleaning to kill germs and viruses and works best on already-clean, grime- and dirt-free surfaces. Soapy water cleans effectively but doesn’t disinfect. Commercially available, relatively safe cleaners are listed on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) website (see reference sidebar).
Prudent, timely action and hygienic habits keep us all on the health track; and there’s no downside to a happy, healthy, godly home.
Peter N. Landless, a board-certified nuclear cardiologist, is director of Adventist Health Ministries at the General Conference. Zeno L. Charles-Marcel, a board-certified internist, is an associate director of Adventist Health Ministries at the General Conference.