COVID-19 and the importance of maintaining a proper indoor air quality

Due to the outbreak caused by SARS-CoV-2, the Portuguese will spend much more time inside their homes due to the stipulated period of social isolation, therefore being more exposed to possible indoor air quality pollutants. Prolonged exposure to these pollutants can cause a number of symptoms to appear, which may exacerbate as exposure continues. Individuals with respiratory problems (for example, asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) may be especially susceptible to this exposure.

For this reason, it will be important for occupants to adopt a set of behaviors to reduce the concentration of these pollutants at home. However, there are still no recommendations to help the population maintain a good indoor air quality.

To address this need, and to prevent the deterioration of occupants’ health, the Institute of Public Health of the University of Porto has compiled basic recommendations to help improve air quality at home, in order to mitigate health problems during the referred social isolation. In addition, the symptoms associated with poor air quality mainly affect the respiratory system, which may not only lead to the exacerbation of symptoms in patients with COVID-19, making recovery difficult, but also induce suspicion of disease in those without a diagnosis, taking into account the similarity of symptoms.


These recommendations were developed based on scientific evidence and described in a simplified manner, so that any citizen can adopt. It is important to protect our home so that it can protect us.


15 simple recommendations to improve air quality in the home during the COVID-19 outbreak

  1. Frequently renew the indoor air by opening windows during the day, every day. Do not be afraid to ventilate the room, as the entry of virus carried outdoor droplets is extremely unlikely;
  2. If allowed, try to alternate the stay between the different rooms of the house, in order to reduce the prolonged exposure to a certain space. Occupants diagnosed or suspected of being infected with SARS-CoV-2 must follow the guidance 010/2020 by Direção Geral de Saúde on Social Distancing and Isolation, and should therefore remain in their quarantine area;
  3. Quarantine spaces should be ventilated more frequently, in order to dilute or disperse the virus carrying droplets;
  4. If you do physical exercise inside, try to ventilate the room during and after the practice;
  5. Avoid non-essential behaviors associated with the production of particles, such as smoking or lighting candles inside the building;
  6. When cooking food or heating by combustion, turn on the available mechanical ventilation (such as the extractor) in the room;
  7. When sweeping or vacuuming a room, try to increase ventilation by opening the windows;
  8. Avoid the unnecessary use of car cleaning and maintenance products, varnishes, aromatic candles, paints and paint-related products, weaving treatments, perfumes and cosmetics, oils, greases and lubricants, glues and adhesive products, at home;
  9. Try not to use air fresheners. If you want to eliminate odors, open the windows;
  10. When using cleaning products and disinfectants, which are especially important in fighting the spread of the virus at home, you must promote the opening of windows and avoid staying at that room for the next couple hours;
  11. If you handle the products referred in point 8, you must do so away from heating sources (heaters, fireplaces, irons, etc.);
  12. Never smoke indoors;
  13. If you have a pilot flame heater at home, make sure you ventilate this room more often;
  14. Try to repair any infiltrations in the house, in order to reduce humidity and radon concentrations. Rooms with more humidity or with visible mold, should be ventilated more frequently;
  15. When ironing, bathing, cooking or performing another task that produces steam, remember to ventilate the space during or immediately after execution. If the place where you iron, for example, has no windows or mechanical ventilation, then try to perform the task in a room that guarantees this possibility.


Attention: The measures presented aim to improve air quality at home during the isolation period stipulated for containment of COVID-19. Occupants with suspected or diagnosed SARS-CoV-2 infection, must first follow the direction 010/2020 of Direção Geral de Saúde.

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Indoor air quality, Prevention, Environment

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Instituto de Saúde Pública da Universidade do Porto


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