As the world grapples with an unprecedented global pandemic, many countries have enforced mandatory lockdowns in an effort to protect the public and mitigate the spread of the virus. Today, lockdown measures are slowly being lifted as people tentatively yet hopefully begin leaving their homes to return to a sense of normalcy. Though we all hope that the worst is over, there is still plenty we can do to ensure we stay safe and healthy during this time. We look at some of the best hygiene practices both inside your home, and when leaving the house.
In your home:
1 Frequently clean high-touch surfaces.
Now, more than ever, it is important to clean all those surfaces that you and your family touch on a daily basis. These include doorknobs, light switches, refrigerator doors, drawer handles, TV remote controls, counters and tabletops, toilet handles, taps, mobile phones, and keys. Cleaning products with disinfectant properties are best, such as sprays or wipes, but in a pinch, even soapy water will do. Just make sure to scrub vigorously to get the entire surface area.
2 Create a ‘Disinfecting Station’
It can be scary to bring new items into your home, especially when you don’t know where they’ve been or who’s touched them before. This is especially true of groceries, whether you’ve bought them yourself or had them delivered. One solution is to create a ‘disinfecting station’ inside your house where you can wipe down groceries and other items you bring in from outside. Remember to disinfect the area after you’ve put your items away. As for fresh produce, experts advise against using soap and water to clean them. Instead, rinse fruit and vegetables well in plenty of cold water prior to consumption.
3 Wash those hands
Handwashing has been named the number one way to prevent the spread of viral infections from one person to the next. Make sure you soap up frequently, especially before, during, and after preparing food, after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, and after having been outside. Scrub for at least 20 seconds – about as long as it takes you to hum along to the Happy Birthday song from beginning to end, twice. And if soap and water are not readily available, you can use an alcohol based hand sanitizer by rubbing your hands together, making sure you cover all surfaces of your hands and fingers, until they are dry.
4 Outside/Inside Clothes
Shoes are the worst culprits when it comes to picking up germs, so it’s good practice to take them off outside and leave them there. Though the likelihood of infection through clothing is relatively low, it is generally a good idea to change into clean clothing if you’ve been at work or out and about all day, just in case you may have touched a contaminated surface with your clothes and brought that home with you. As for washing your clothes, make sure you use the warmest appropriate setting for clothing, towels and bedding, and avoid shaking out dirty clothes, as this could disperse the virus through the air.
5 Open a window
We may be cleaning our household surfaces a lot more often, but we often forget to clean a critical part of our home: the air. As many of us are spending more time indoors, it’s important to keep the airflow moving in order to purify the air as much as possible and avoid passing germs. This means opening doors and windows as much as possible, keeping interior doors open so as not to trap air, and using your extractor fan when cooking.
Outside your home:
6 Keep your distance
One of the key social distancing moves recommended by experts is to stay at least 2 meters away from other people. This is a move that is designed to limit the spread of germs and viruses, while still allowing us to go about our daily lives in a practical way. This means taking a few steps back from the person in front of you in a supermarket queue, chatting to people at a distance of a couple of arms’ length, and keeping two seats between you and others when using public transport.
7 Mask Up
Wearing a mask or face covering has recently been recommended as a way to help protect yourself and others from the spread of coronavirus. However, they are only effective when worn properly. Masks should cover your nose and mouth, and should fit firmly but still feel comfortable against the skin. Wash your hands before and after wearing the mask, and avoid touching it frequently. Surgical masks should only be used once and disposed of, while cloth facemasks should be washed after each use in hot water.
8 To glove or not to glove
While wearing masks is generally recommended when leaving the house for essential trips, other protective equipment, such as gloves, may create a false sense of security. For example, wearing a single pair of gloves all day without cleaning or sanitizing your hands in between will still lead to cross-contamination. It could be said that it is more effective to simply wash or sanitize your hands frequently instead.
9 Watch where you put your hands
So you’ve got the hand washing down to a science, and stocked up on face masks, but what about keeping an eye on all the things you touch? People touch thousands of surfaces daily, and also constantly put their fingers on their face, which is a direct route to becoming infected. In order to overcome these habits, experts suggest making a conscious effort to keep your hands below shoulder level at all times, and avoid touching surfaces when out and about. This means using your foot to push open doors, or your keys or elbow to hit elevator buttons. If you’re in a situation where you need to grab a shopping cart, for instance, wipe it down with a disinfectant wipe, and make sure to wash or sanitize your hands immediately afterwards.
As we all begin to return to our daily lives, it’s important to be sensible and practical, and by following these simple guidelines, we are certain that life will go back to normal sooner rather than later. Of course, if you have symptoms or feel ill, please do stay home and seek medical advice.