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A woman sneezing during cold and flu season.

Pollution And The Flu: Can Bad Air Quality Make You Sick?

Flu season conjures images of warm blankets, chicken noodle soup, and seeking comfort from the discomfort. But beyond these traditional remedies, there's another factor to consider when it comes to seeking comfort and protection: avoiding air pollution. 

Can bad air quality make you sick? Recent studies have actually revealed a concerning link between exposure to air pollution and an increased risk of contracting influenza (the flu). This raises a crucial question: does bad air quality make you sick?



The Link Between Air And Illness

Breathing polluted air can have a detrimental impact on our lungs, making them more susceptible to respiratory infections like the flu. This vulnerability is particularly high during flu season when the influenza virus is widespread. Research suggests that individuals living in areas with higher levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and ozone during this period are more likely to be hospitalized with flu symptoms.

PM2.5 refers to microscopic particles measuring less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, making them easily inhaled deep into the lungs. These particles can irritate and damage lung tissue, impairing the body's ability to fight off infections, including the flu virus. Ozone, another air pollutant, can also aggravate the respiratory system by causing inflammation and making breathing difficult, further compromising the body's defenses.

The Airmega 100 set up for cold and flu season.

Beyond Direct Irritation: Weakening The Immune System

While the initial picture suggests direct irritation of the lungs by pollutants, the story doesn't end there. Emerging research suggests that chronic exposure to common air pollutants, such as vehicle emissions, industrial smokestack fumes, and wood burning, may have a suppressive effect on the immune system. This suppression can reduce the effectiveness of flu vaccines, leaving individuals more susceptible to the virus even after vaccination.

The exact mechanisms by which air pollution weakens the immune system are still being investigated. However, one theory suggests that pollution particles trigger inflammation throughout the body, including in the immune system. This chronic inflammation can disrupt the normal functioning of immune cells, making them less effective at fighting off infections.

The Need for Cleaner Air And Proactive Defense

Although more research is needed to fully understand the complex relationship between air pollution and flu infection, the preliminary findings are concerning. They highlight the potential benefits of cleaner air in protecting public health, particularly during flu season.

While larger-scale efforts to combat air pollution are crucial, there are also individual steps we can take to protect ourselves and our loved ones:

  • Stay informed: Regularly check air quality forecasts in your area and limit outdoor activities when pollution levels are high. Consider using air quality monitoring apps to stay updated on real-time air quality data.
  • Invest in air purification: Coway's Airmega air purifiers utilize a 99.999% effective Green True HEPA filter and deodorizing and activating carbon filters to capture harmful pollutants and allergens, creating a cleaner and healthier indoor environment. These air purifiers can help reduce exposure to airborne contaminants, including PM2.5, ozone, and other pollutants potentially linked to increased flu risk.
  • Maintain a strong immune system: Prioritize a healthy diet, regular exercise, and adequate sleep to support your body's natural defenses. A well-functioning immune system is better equipped to fight off infections, including the flu virus.

The emerging link between air pollution and increased susceptibility to the flu underscores the importance of protecting our respiratory health on multiple fronts. While tackling air pollution on a larger scale is crucial, individual actions can also contribute significantly to our well-being. 

By combining individual efforts, such as staying informed, investing in air purification, and maintaining a strong immune system, with larger-scale initiatives to combat air pollution, we can work towards a future with cleaner air, stronger immune systems, and a healthier population.


EPA - Particulate Matter (PM) Basics

Harvard Health Publishing - Even low-level air pollution may harm health

National Geographic - Can air pollution cause inflammation? Scientists are starting to unravel the connection


1Coway air purifiers have been proven to trap dust, pollen, dander, viruses and bacteria in the air based on KCL (Korea Conformity Laboratories) testing.They have been tested in a 30㎥ size chamber according to the Korea Air Cleaning Association standard (SPS-KACA 002-132:2022 Modified) to measure the 0.01㎛ size of particle removal rate. It was tested on maximum airflow speed in normal room temperature and humidity conditions. The performance may vary in the actual living environment of customers.
→ Tested with Airmega Aim, 100, 150, 160, AP-1216L, AP-1512HH, AP-1512HHS, 200M, Icon, IconS, 230, 240, 250, 250 Art, 250S, 300, 300S, 400, 400S, ProX

299.97% of viruses, bacteria, fungi and pollen were verified to be removed from the air for Coway air purifiers which have Green True HEPA™ filter applied based on the Japan Food Research Laboratories(JFRL) testing according to JEM 1467 standard.
→ Tested with Coway Airmega AP-1512HH, AP-1512HHS, 250, 250 Art, 250S, 300, 300S, 400, 400S
→ All tested by JFRL and received above result within below time.

All tested by JFRL and received above result within below time.

- Virus: Tested with Escherichia coli phage ΦX174 NBRC 103405, 60 minutes
- Bacteria: Tested with Staphylococcus epidermidis NBRC 12993, 60 minutes
- Fungi/Mold: Tested with Penicillium citrinum NBRC 6352, 60 minutes
- Pollen: Tested with Cedar Pollen extract, 60 minutes

3Aerosol test conducted in a Biosafety level 3 laboratory with two Coway air purifier models, Coway Airmega 250 and 400 for removal of SARS-CoV-2 Aerosol by US based MRI Global, a not-for-profit laboratory and partner of US Department of Defense. The test was conducted in a 13.1ft3 chamber. Virus was aerosolized for 15 minutes and the product was turned on high for 2 minutes. Result showed each product effectively removed over 99.98% of the SARS-CoV-2 in 2 minutes. This is a result from a laboratory experiment condition and result may vary in different conditions. This result does not imply it kills SARS-CoV-2 or prevents the transmission of Covid-19. Coway Airmega 250S and 400S are identical to the tested models and has equal performance with an additional mobile connectivity function.

4The concentration of ammonia, acetaldehyde and acetic acid were proven to be removed within 30 minutes by FCG Research Institute, Inc. Human Life Science Lab. It is not a demonstration result in the actual use space. Not all odors and gases may be supported. → Tested with Coway Airmega 150, 160, AP-1512HH, AP-1512HHS, 400, 400S

5The coverage area of the air purifier is based on an area where the air cleaner can make two air changes per hour (ACPH). An air change per hour translates to how many times an air purifier can clean an area, assuming the height of a ceiling to be 8 ft, in one hour. Therefore ** means two air changes per hour means that the cleaner can clean the area once every 30 minutes and * means air changes per hour means that the air purifier can clean the area once every 60 minutes.

10Terms and conditions apply. Discounts, including promotions, coupons, bundle discount and subscription discount, cannot be stacked on top of other coupons. During promotional periods, discount codes will not be able to be applied to orders. Promo codes may apply to products only—filters, accessories, and new products within 3 months of the release date are not included.