Elderly people have been found to emit significantly high levels of aerosolized respiratory particles, according to a new study.

The findings emphasize the importance of implementing targeted mitigation measures to reduce infection risks in vulnerable demographics.

The study, led by a team from the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Institute of Fluid Mechanics and Aerodynamics, Germany, outlined the factors that make the elderly more prone to releasing viruses into the air, thereby increasing the risk of infection spread. For their paper, titled "Lung aerosol particle emission increases with age at rest and during exercise," researchers tested 80 people using cutting-edge methods.

Airborne diseases spread through tiny respiratory particles in the air. When we exhale, a strong flow of air passes over the wet lining inside our noses and throats, and some of the moisture turns into tiny droplets. These droplets can carry germs like bacteria and viruses.

The release of tiny aerosol particles can increase by 100 times from rest to exercise, significantly raising the risk of infection by about 10 times. Researchers concluded that age is a factor that affects how many particles are released.

It was particularly noticeable in people aged 60 to 76 years old, as they released twice as many aerosol particles at rest and during exercise, along with five times the volume of aerosols.

When older participants (aged 60-76) were at rest, the air they breathed out contained around 310 tiny particles per liter, while younger people had only 105 particles. Among the older group, men released 210 particles per liter, while women released 500 particles per liter. However, men breathed out more air than women, so the overall difference was not significant. During exercise, younger people had 620 particles per liter, while older people had 2,090 particles per liter.

Age was the main factor, but factors like sex and body mass index also influenced it. While suggesting that a one-size-fits-all approach may not work, the study highlights the importance of tailored mitigation strategies for indoor fitness and elder care facilities during outbreaks and future pandemics.

The respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) can spread from one person to another through direct and indirect contacts, such as kissing and touching surfaces that has the virus. Pixabay