Possible effects of air temperature on COVID-19 disease severity and transmission rates

Dominique Kang, Clifford Ellgen, Erik Kulstad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Currently available data are consistent with increased severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) replication at temperatures encountered in the upper airways (25–33°C when breathing room temperature air, 25°C) compared to those in the lower airways (37°C). One factor that may contribute to more rapid viral growth in the upper airways is the exponential increase in SARS-CoV-2 stability that occurs with reductions in temperature, as measured in vitro. Because SARS-CoV-2 frequently initiates infection in the upper airways before spreading through the body, increased upper airway viral growth early in the disease course may result in more rapid progression of disease and potentially contribute to more severe outcomes. Similarly, higher SARS-CoV-2 viral titer in the upper airways likely supports more efficient transmission. Conversely, the possible significance of air temperature to upper airway viral growth suggests that prolonged delivery of heated air might represent a preventative measure and prophylactic treatment for coronavirus disease 2019.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5358-5366
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Medical Virology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • COVID-19
  • air temperature
  • thermodynamics
  • virology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Virology
  • Infectious Diseases


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