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Why do viral infections increase in winter?

Oct 6, 2020 | Blog

Flu infections spike every winter and now that we’ve got Covid-19 added to the mix it’s important to understand what’s causing it. As well as being cold, the air in winter is notably drier (less humid) and these two things in combination create ideal conditions for spreading viruses. Once we understand why they’re having such big effect, we will have a stronger idea of what we can do to protect ourselves.

How dry air affects the virus

We all know that viral particles are carried in droplets from our breathing, coughing, etc… But dry air causes the moisture in the droplets to evaporate, this makes the droplets lighter, so they stay suspended in the air for longer periods. While droplets are in the air, they pose a greater risk of being inhaled by people, but they can also travel much longer distances before settling down to rest on a surface.

How cold weather affects viruses

The cold air effect is straightforward, it acts like a refrigerator for the virus, keeping it preserved and active for longer. So whether the virus is in the air or has finally come to rest on a tabletop, door handle or other surface, it could still be infectious long after it was expelled from someone’s body.

How dry air affects the body

The mucous membrane in our noses (that’s the snot) is there to trap viral particles to be either expelled from the body or swallowed so they can be destroyed by our stomach acid. But the air in winter can cause this protective layer to dry out so we’re less able to trap the particles and more susceptible to being infected.

Lack of sunlight & Vitamin D

While Vitamin D is not yet clinically proven to help our bodies fight off respiratory disease, there is some evidence to show it may help. Unfortunately, our bodies require sunlight (or UV-B light) to generate Vitamin D and there’s far less sunlight to be had in winter so that’s another point working against us.

Social habits in winter

We typically spend more time indoors in winter which puts us in closer proximity to others. And given that the virus is living longer and travelling further while our body is less able to fight it off, it’s no wonder that we see flu infections rise so fast and reasonable to assume we’ll see something similar with Covid-19.

What we can do to protect ourselves

At this point you all know the drill! Wear a mask & visor, wash your hands and keep your distance from other people. Given the dryness of winter air we’d also suggest you make an extra effort to keep hydrated, something that’s easy to overlook when you spend all day wearing a mask. It’s also more important than ever to maintain your Covid-screening for clients with effective temperature checks and a prominent NHS track and trace poster. If you have any queries about this or want clarification on the points made drop us an email at

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