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The World Health Organization has officially announced the outbreak of COVID-19 as a pandemic, leading to drastic governmental measures around the world. In tough times like these, it’s all the more important to keep calm and stay healthy. Good health begins with good habits. Here are seven useful tips on how to protect yourself and prevent the virus from spreading!
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The new coronavirus is highly contagious. Symptoms may take 14 days or more to show up, meaning someone could pass on the virus before they notice they’re infected. Since the virus is transmitted via respiratory droplets from an infected person’s coughs and sneezes, it’s best to avoid crowds and stay at home unless necessary. Do not share dishes or eating utensils. Avoid talking to each other face to face, and cover your nose and mouth with your elbow when you sneeze or cough. Measure your temperature daily. See a doctor immediately if you are feverish or develop flu symptoms.
Wearing gloves may not be the best way to keep your hands clean (unless you’re working in the cleaning or medical industry) because you might still be touching your face with your gloves on. Instead, you should wash your hands often, especially after you’ve touched any handles or elevator buttons – studies suggest the virus can survive on plastic and stainless steel for up to three days – and before eating or touching your face. These paper soaps are easy to carry along wherever you go.
To properly wash your hands, wet them and apply soap. Lather your palms, your wrists, the backs of your hands, between your fingers including your thumbs, and under your nails. Scrub for 20 seconds, which is the approximate time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice. Rinse and dry.
If you can’t wash your hands, use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol, and ideally glycerin too to keep skin moisturized. Rub over all surfaces of your hands for 20 seconds until it evaporates. Never touch your eyes, nose or mouth before disinfecting your hands.
Alcohol and frequent hand washing can damage the skin barrier and cause dryness, so remember to apply hand cream from time to time.
A recent “coronavirus challenge” video showed an influencer licking a plane toilet seat. In a way, she did raise some awareness on how dirty toilets can be. A toilet plume is the dispersal of microscopic particles while flushing. Though there’s no evidence proving that COVID-19 can be transmitted via toilet aerosols, closing the lid before you flush can be a good measure to prevent fecal matter from spreading.
While some Asian countries have adopted the practice of healthy people wearing face masks as a preventive measure to capture droplets and prevent face-touching, in Western countries, masks tend to be reserved for the sick and medical staff. If you decide to wear a mask, make sure to choose the right type and wear it properly.
To a certain extent, reusable woven masks that keep you warm may help prevent respiratory droplets from entering, but a proper three-ply surgical mask comprising of an outer waterproof layer, a middle filter layer and an inner moisture absorbent layer is generally much preferred. This IG post from us highlights mask standards from different countries. If necessary, you can also opt for the pricier N95 or those with replaceable filters.
Always use clean hands to put on a mask. The colored side is usually the front and should face outwards. The vents should face down, and the metal strip should touch your nose bridge. Place the ear loops over your ears using both hands. Pinch the strip to fit over your nose and pull the mask over your chin, making sure there are no gaps between the mask and your face. Avoid touching the mask when you have it on. After use, remove the mask using the ear loops without touching the front, and fold it outwards or wrap it up before throwing away. Cleanse hands afterward.
Surgical masks are for single use only. If you must remove your mask for meals, don’t leave it under your chin or hanging on the side of your face. In Hong Kong, it’s common practice to wrap it in tissue or place in a paper envelope to absorb moisture. You can also keep your unused masks in these cute mask containers. To help protect your eyes from droplets, wear glasses, goggles or a face shield.
Don’t bring germs home!
When you return home, take your shoes off and leave them outside if feasible. If you bring your shoes into your home, step on a carpet soaked in 1:99 diluted bleach water, or spray shoes with a shoe disinfectant before stepping in. Wash your hands thoroughly, and wipe your glasses and phone with alcohol wipes.
Remove your clothes and hang them away from your closet for a few hours. You can also spray them with a fabric disinfectant or, better yet, toss them straight into the washing machine. Consider wearing waterproof rather than woven clothes, as dirt and germs tend to attach less easily to waterproof surfaces. Some people choose to wear a raincoat when they go out and leave it at the door when they return.
Regularly clean and disinfect surfaces in your home. At least once a week, mop the floor and wipe down furniture with 1:99 diluted bleach-water solution or an appropriate household cleaner, and rinse with a wet cloth. Take caution when using bleach – wear gloves and keep away from children. If needed, clean the surface first before using bleach-water solution, but never mix it with other detergents. Use the diluted bleach water within 24 hours to prevent it from losing its disinfecting power.
Though there’s no evidence that COVID-19 is airborne, you can still consider using an air purifier in your household or office.
It’s always a good idea for overall health to maintain a balanced diet and boost immunity by taking enough (but not too much) Vitamins C and E. Berries, citrus fruits, broccoli, sweet potato, carrot, turmeric, garlic and ginger are all believed to supercharge the immune system. In traditional Chinese medicine, foods such as lotus root, lotus seed, ginkgo, almond, bamboo, white lily, pear and ginseng are believed to help nurture the respiratory system.
There’s no single, foolproof way to protect yourself from COVID-19, but you can try to eat well, exercise properly, get enough sleep, stay positive and find ways to relieve stress and make good use of time spent at home. Be aware of the situation and stay informed. Don’t forget to care about others too, because we’re all in this together!