For a first world country, New Zealand generates some shocking health statistics. Infectious diseases such as acute rheumatic fever and childhood pneumonia have been rising relentlessly. One study found that infectious diseases accounted for 27% of all hospital admissions in the 2004-08 period.
That burden is reflected in an extra 17,000 cases annually requiring hospital treatment, plus avoidable healthcare costs amounting to tens of millions of dollars. On a more personal level, if you’ve ever witnessed a tiny child wheezing and fighting for every breath, you’ll know it’s a sight you never want to see again.
And what’s the common factor with infectious diseases? In the majority of cases, they are spread through close personal contact. They arise when people are crowded together in less-than-ideal conditions, coughing and breathing in bugs from the air.
It all comes to a head during winter. That’s the time when New Zealand’s sub-par housing stock provides the perfect breeding ground for colds, influenza and other contagious diseases. Families may be using extractor fans to keep the air moving, or they may have no home ventilation at all apart from the occasional open door. In the war against infection they’re fighting a losing battle.
Several studies of ventilation and respiratory illness have found an increase in respiratory illness correlated with very low ventilation rates. The unpleasant truth is that damp houses create an unhealthy atmosphere for humans to live in – but microbes find them very homely indeed.
Moisture is the critical factor to focus on. We may associate humidity with the muggy summer months, but it’s actually a more serious problem during the wet New Zealand winter. That’s when moisture becomes an indoor issue.
Clear the air and breathe easy
Without effective ventilation fans, indoor moisture can rise above healthy levels for long periods. It’s not uncommon for New Zealand homes to have winter humidity levels of 75%, providing ideal conditions for airborne infections in the home. But if you can lower humidity levels to the range of 40-50%, you’ll not only feel more comfortable, but you’ll be breathing in air that’s less likely to carry bacteria and viruses.
If you’re serious about staying healthy during winter, technology is your friend. You could buy a dehumidifier, and drain litres of water from the atmosphere, each day, but the best long-term solution is a total house ventilation system.
House ventilation makes a healthy difference
As well as providing fresh, filtered air throughout your living space, this system reduces atmospheric moisture and changes the entire volume of air in a home several times an hour. Microbes are flushed out, along with dust mite droppings, mould spores, chemical pollutants, allergens and other nasties.
Our winter climate and decades-old housing stock may encourage the build up of stagnant air inside homes, but there’s no need to sniffle and cough our way through winter. House ventilation is the smart way to make a difference to our New Zealand’s dismal winter health statistics.