Review of indoor aerosol generation, transport, and control in the context of COVID-19

Int Forum Allergy Rhinol. 2020 Oct;10(10):1173-1179. doi: 10.1002/alr.22661. Epub 2020 Jul 24.


The coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has heightened the awareness of aerosol generation by human expiratory events and their potential role in viral respiratory disease transmission. Concerns over high severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) viral burden of mucosal surfaces has raised questions about the aerosol-generating potential and dangers of many otorhinolaryngologic procedures. However, the risks of aerosol generation and associated viral transmission by droplet or airborne routes for many otorhinolaryngology procedures are largely unknown. Indoor aerosol and droplet viral respiratory transmission risk is influenced by 4 factors: (1) aerosol or droplet properties; (2) indoor airflow; (3) virus-specific factors; and (4) host-specific factors. Herein we elaborate on known aerosol vs droplet properties, indoor airflow, and aerosol-generating events to provide context for risks of aerosol infectious transmission. We also provide simple but typically effective measures for mitigating the spread and inhalation of viral aerosols in indoor settings. Understanding principles of infectious transmission, aerosol and droplet generation, as well as concepts of indoor airflow, will assist in the integration of new data on SARS-CoV-2 transmission and activities that can generate aerosol to best inform on the need for escalation or de-escalation from current societal and institutional guidelines for protection during aerosol-generating procedures.

Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; aerosol; aerosol-generating procedure; airborne; droplet.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols*
  • Air Pollution, Indoor
  • COVID-19 / prevention & control
  • COVID-19 / transmission*
  • Disease Transmission, Infectious / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Inhalation
  • Lipid Droplets
  • Otolaryngology / methods*
  • Pandemics
  • SARS-CoV-2 / physiology*


  • Aerosols