How to protect yourself from contracting coronavirus

Mar 15, 2020
There are a few steps you must follow when it comes to hand washing to help prevent the spread of disease. Source: Getty

The spread of COVID-19 throughout the world has caused widespread panic, with the number of confirmed cases increasing each day, leaving many fearful of stepping outside.

However, authorities have urged people not to panic and simply adopt proper hygiene techniques to prevent yourself from catching the virus and spreading it onto others. The main message from the federal health department is to wash your hands frequently with soap and water, before and after eating and after going to the toilet.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, there “isn’t enough science” to prove antibacterial soaps are any better at fighting off bacteria, so plain soap bought from the supermarket and clean water is perfectly okay. It all really comes down to how effectively you’re scrubbing your hands.

“From what we know about this coronavirus, it’s similar to [previous epidemics of] SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome), so it should not be that difficult of a microorganism to kill,” Dr Nahid Bhadelia from Boston Medical Center told the New York Post. “Soap and water, and alcohol-based hand sanitisers can kill it.”

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has a simple five-step process you should follow to remove any germs or bacteria that you may have come into contact with from sneezing into your hands, touching a dirty hand rail or shaking hands with a colleague.

First, wet your hands with clean, running water, then turn off the tap and apply soap thoroughly. This doesn’t mean squirting a little onto your hands and rubbing for two seconds, you really have to get in there.

Lather yours hands by rubbing them together, including the back, between your fingers and under your nails. You should scrub for at least 20 seconds – which works out to be humming the Happy Birthday tune from start to finish twice – and then rinse well under clean, running water. As for drying them, don’t just wipe your hands on your dirty pants, instead use a clean towel or let them air dry.

However, if you want some extra protection, you can also use hand sanitiser. The CDC recommends those made with at least 60 per cent alcohol, as they’ll be more effective in killing off germs. It should clearly state the alcohol content on the bottle, so have a quick check before heading to the counter.

When applying the gel, you should squeeze a small amount onto one palm and rub your hands together thoroughly until they’re dry. This means the backs of your hands and fingers as well – it should take you about 20 seconds. But, be warned, using hand sanitiser alone, without proper hand washing won’t get rid of all types of germs. So, make sure to scrub with soap and water first.

But it’s not just your own hygiene that you should take care of. Now, more than ever, it’s important to keep your home environment clean and free of germs. The Department of Health recommends regularly washing surfaces that are frequently touched, such as door handles, light switches, kitchen and bathroom areas with household detergent or disinfectant.

This cleanliness practice should also be adopted in gyms. Though you don’t have to go around wiping their light switches when visiting, it’s a good idea to clean your hands thoroughly after your session and use hand sanitiser regularly. You should also abstain from touching your eyes, nose and mouth at all times.

And if you’re thinking of stockpiling on masks, it might not be required. The Department of Health recently issued advice which states that surgical masks are only helpful in preventing people who have coronavirus from spreading the disease further, and if you’re well, then it’s not necessary. In fact, there’s little evidence to show that widespread use of the masks among healthy people prevents the transmission of the virus.

However, if you’re feeling unwell it’s best to stay away from public places altogether and phone your GP first if you need medical attention. They will tell you what to do and arrange a test for coronavirus if required.

Finally, don’t stress. By following these steps and continuing with health habits such as drinking water and getting plenty of sleep, it will help to ward off serious illness.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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