The outbreak of the SARS-CoV-2 virus – and the disease it causes, COVID-19 – continues to evolve rapidly. With ever-increasing case counts around the world, school and business closures, quarantine mandates, and still no cure, many people are wondering, “What can we do to protect our health during this distressing time?”
In this article, we discuss important COVID-19 health measures – from proper handwashing, social distancing, good hygiene while on self-quarantine, and more.
When and How to Wash Your Hands
Handwashing is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your family against COVID-19 and other illnesses and infections. To stay healthy, learn when and how you should wash your hands.
- When To Wash Your Hands
You can help yourself and your loved ones stay healthy by regularly washing your hands, particularly during this COVID-19 outbreak. Here are some key times when you should wash your hands:
- Before, during, and after preparing food
- Before eating
- Before and after treating a wound
- Before and after taking care of someone who is sick
- After using the toilet
- After coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose
- After returning from going outside (i.e. going to the grocery store, work, school)
- After using public computers, countertops, cash and coins, etc.
- After touching garbage
- Washing Your Hands The Right Way
Washing your hands is easy, it takes no more than a minute and is one of the most effective ways to protect yourself and prevent the spread of COVID-19. Clean hands can stop the SARS-CoV-2 virus from spreading from one person to another and throughout an entire community.
Every time you wash your hands, make sure to follow these five steps:
- Wet your hands using clean, running water (cold or warm). Turn off the tap and apply soap thoroughly.
- Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap – make sure to thoroughly lather the back of your hands, under your nails, and between your fingers.
- Scrub your hands for about 20 seconds. Need a timer? Set an alarm or hum the “Happy Birthday” song from start to finish, twice.
- Rinse your hands thoroughly.
- Dry your hands carefully – you can use a dry, clean towel or you can air dry them.
Hand Sanitizer: An Alternative to Soap and Water
Washing your hands with soap and water is the best way to protect yourself from COVID-19 and prevent its spread. However, if soap and water are not readily available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer – note that it should contain at least 60-70% alcohol.
In most situations, hand sanitizers can reduce the number of germs on your hands. However, sanitizers do not get rid of all types of germs; hand sanitizers may not be as effective when your hands are greasy or visible dirty; and hand sanitizers might not remove harmful chemicals from your hands (i.e. heavy metals, pesticides, etc.).
To use hand sanitizer, make sure to:
- Apply the hand sanitizer to the palm of one hand.
- Rub your hands together.
- Rub the hand sanitizer over all the surfaces of your fingers and hands until your hands are dry. This should take about 20 seconds.
To stop the spread of COVID-19, health officials have mandated the public to practice social distancing – avoiding crowds, staying home, and refraining from touching one another. Although living like this can be inconvenient, lonely, and even frightening, it is for the greater good.
But, what exactly is social distancing? How does it help prevent the spread of COVID-19?
Social distancing is an established control action that is aimed to stop or slow down the spread of a contagious disease, such as COVID-19. The primary goal of social distancing is to reduce the probability of contact between persons carrying the SARS-CoV-2 virus (or any other infection), and others who are not infected, so as to lessen disease transmission, morbidity, and ultimately, mortality.
Social distancing means deliberately increasing the physical space between people so as to avoid the spread of a contagious disease. Staying at least 6 feet away from other people can reduce your risk of catching COVID-19. Aside from staying at least 6 feet away from other people, you should also avoid mass gatherings, avoid visiting loved ones, postpone travel plans, and work from home if possible.
Who and How You Should Self-Quarantine
First things first, let us examine the difference between self-quarantine and isolation.
- Self-quarantine is used to separate and restrict the movement of healthy persons who may have been exposed to COVID-19 to see if they become sick. These people may have been exposed to COVID-19 without knowing it, or they may have the disease but don’t exhibit symptoms. Quarantine can help limit the spread of COVID-19.
- Isolation is used to separate those who have been infected with COVID-19 from those who are healthy. Isolation restricts the movement of sick people to help stop the spread of the virus. For instance, hospitals now have isolation areas for patients with COVID-19.
Who Should Self-Quarantine?
Initially, health experts were advising those who have travelled to countries with high number of COVID-19 cases to self-quarantine upon their return.
However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also recommends that individuals should self-quarantine for medium- and high-risk exposure –this means those who have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19, or have had limited contact with an infected person for a short period of time.
People over the age of 60 and people with underlying medical conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, should self-quarantine particularly if a coronavirus outbreak occurs in their community. This is because the elderly are at a higher risk of contracting the virus.
If you are not sick and haven’t been exposed to coronavirus, you aren’t legally required to self-quarantine; unless mandated by government officials. However, self-quarantine is recommended as a way to flatten the curve – a term that is used to describe isolation measures that keep coronavirus cases low.
How Long Should You Self-Quarantine?
Health officials self-quarantining for 14 days. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), if individuals do not exhibit symptoms of illness after two weeks, they should be okay to conclude the self-quarantine period and return to their daily routines as normal. However, with more and more countries opting to implement stay-at-home measures, most people will find themselves required to quarantine.
Aside from self-quarantining for 14 days, you should also be prepared to:
- Ban visitors who don’t have an essential need to be in your home.
- Clean all commonly used and touched surfaces every day, including tabletops, bathroom fixtures, doorknobs, keyboards, phones, counters, etc.
- Avoid sharing household items, including drinking glasses, eating utensils, towels, bedding, and other items.
The Bottom Line
While there isn’t a cure for COVID-19 yet, there are several health measures that you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones, while helping prevent the spread of the virus. These health measures include proper handwashing, social distancing, and self-quarantining – all of which may sound simple but it does have a significant impact.