In the years before antibiotics became available, open-air therapy was the standard treatment for tuberculosis (TB) and other infectious diseases. Patients were nursed next to open windows in cross-ventilated wards or put outside, in their beds, to breathe fresh outdoor air. This was believed to aid their recovery and reduce the risk of cross- and re-infection. The open-air regimen was also widely used on casualties during the First World War; and during the 1918–1919 influenza pandemic.We learned this in the 1918 flu epidemic, but we forgot it.
Put simply, medics found that severely ill flu patients nursed outdoors recovered better than those treated indoors. A combination of fresh air and sunlight seems to have prevented deaths among patients; and infections among medical staff. There is scientific support for this. Research shows that outdoor air is a natural disinfectant. Fresh air can kill the flu virus and other harmful germs. Equally, sunlight is germicidal and there is now evidence it can kill the flu viFlorence Nightingale understood this: "A nurse is to maintain the air within the room as fresh as the air without, without lowering the temperature." What hospitals looked like in her day: