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Headaches, sore eyes and throat, nasal stuffiness, lethargy, skin complaints and an increase in airborne viral transmissions are all effects of a dry atmosphere. Dry air will suck moisture from all possible sources in the room including mucous membranes in the nose and throat, which are designed to protect us from infection. Moisture will also be drawn from any body tissue exposed during operations. This can cause premature drying and promote the formation of a scab from coagulated blood.
Perhaps more importantly in theatre is the effect of electrostatic shocks which build up below 40% RH. The uncomfortable, surprising jolts caused by a sudden static discharge can have potentially damaging and dangerous effects on surgery.
Consideration must also be given to the prevention of electrostatic sparks in relation to flammable anesthetic gases.
The humidity levels in maternity and obstetric departments should always be maintained as babies are particularly sensitive to a dry atmosphere. Also, low relative humidity can severely exacerbate the condition of patients with respiratory problems.
Steam is a very popular solution in hospitals as it ensures the moisture being introduced is 100% safe and also due to the fact that there is often a ready supply of steam being used for sterilising purposes.
- Great Ormond Street Hospital, UK
- Cork University Hospital, Eire
- Guys Hospital, UK
- John Radcliffe Hospital, UK
- St Mary's Hospital, UK
- Chesterfield Nuffield Hospital, UK
- Sheffield Children's Hospital, UK
- Harefield Hospital, UK
- Royal Berkshire Hospital, UK