Impact of Airborne Germs on Human Health


Ever started sneezing uncontrollably upon entering a space? Or found it hard to breathe in a crowded, enclosed room? These could be the effects of airborne germs—microorganisms like viruses and bacteria that lurk invisibly in the air around us, waiting to irritate our respiratory system and cause problems to our health. The air around you matters a lot, and when it’s not clean, microscopic pathogens can wreak havoc on your well-being and lower your quality of life. This is why it’s important to live in environments with good indoor air quality. But just how harmful are airborne germs and do they really cause so much harm? Keep reading to find out more.


1. Airborne Germs Cause Respiratory Infections


Airborne germs can hitch a ride on droplets expelled when an infected person talks, coughs, or sneezes. Once released into the air, these droplets can linger for some time, allowing others to inhale them, leading to potential respiratory infection and impact on one’s health. These microorganisms include:


  • Viruses

Viruses that cause infectious diseases, like influenza, rhinovirus (which causes the common cold), respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and coronaviruses (including SARS-CoV-2), are notorious for spreading through the air. They can survive on surfaces or in droplets suspended in the air, increasing the risk of airborne transmission in crowded or poorly ventilated spaces.


  • Bacteria

While less common than viruses in causing respiratory infections, bacteria like Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, and Mycobacterium tuberculosis can also be transmitted through the air. For example, tuberculosis—when an infected person coughs or sneezes, they release bacteria-containing droplets into the environment.


When airborne germs are inhaled, they can enter the respiratory tract, where they may infect the mucous membranes lining the nose, throat, and lungs. The body’s immune system typically responds to these invaders by triggering inflammation and producing mucus to trap and eliminate them. However, if the immune system is overwhelmed or if the pathogens are particularly virulent, an infection can take hold.


2. Airborne Germs Can Trigger Asthma and Allergies


Aside from viruses and bacteria, airborne allergens, such as pollen, dust mites, pet dander, and cockroach particles, can interact with germs to lower air quality and worsen respiratory conditions too. Along with viral or bacterial particles, these germs can intensify the body’s immune response and increase inflammation. Other environmental factors like pollution, smoke, bacteria, and fungi present in the air can also exacerbate the effects of airborne germs on respiratory health, triggering asthma attacks and worsening allergy symptoms. Mould spores, for example, thrive in humid indoor environments and can become airborne. When inhaled, they can cause sneezing, nasal congestion, itchy eyes, and coughing.


3. Airborne Germs Can Exacerbate Existing Medical Conditions


Exposure to airborne germs can also cause severe complications in vulnerable individuals, such as young children and the elderly. The former, whose immune systems are still developing, may experience common colds or more severe respiratory infections as their bodies struggle to fight off these pathogens effectively. Similarly, the elderly may face increased risks from airborne germs due to age-related changes in their immune systems and underlying health conditions. Chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, or respiratory conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can weaken the body’s defences, leaving older adults more vulnerable to infections.


Learn More: How To Disinfect Safely To Keep Your Children Germ-Free


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