As promised in the previous post, here’s the personal hygiene routine that will protect you from the COVID-19. This may not be the best practice. But I’ve done proper research before recommending this routine (refer to footnotes). This routine works best in the Indian context. Before doing any of these activities, I highly strongly suggest you download the “Aarogya Setu” mobile app (android or iOS) and take a self-assessment test daily. If you feel any symptoms, immediately seek medical attention.
As the number of COVID-19 cases is steadily increasing day-by-day, it’s very important to take care of ourselves. It may be difficult to follow this hygiene routine everywhere and every time, but we’ve to adapt ourselves to this new lifestyle.
- Soap or a hand-wash
- Face-mask without a breathing valve
- Detergent liquid
- A hand-kerchief
- Tissue-paper or a towel
How the virus spreads?
Before looking at the hygiene routine, we’ve to understand how the virus may enter into our body. This post aims to prevent the virus from entering our body.
- The respiratory droplets (saliva or mucus) of an infected person may enter directly into your body through your eyes, or nose, or mouth, when the infected person sneezes or coughs.
- When you touch the surfaces contaminated with the virus, and then touch your eyes, or nose, or mouth, it may enter into your body.
The proper way of using/doing things
Most of us don’t use protective equipment properly. Here’s a simple guide on how to use them.
- Before wearing the mask, make sure your hands are clean. If not, sanitize them or wash them with soap.
- While choosing a face-mask, choose a disposable surgical mask or a home-made cloth mask. Don’t use N95 or N99 respirators unless you’re a healthcare worker.
- While wearing or removing the mask, never touch the exposed surface of the mask. Instead, use the ear-loops.
- You should never bring the mask down to the chin.
- Place the mask in such a way that only the exposed area touches the surface over which you place it. Not even ear-loops shall touch the surface.
- Don’t remove the mask while you speak with someone.
- You’ve to wear the mask whenever you step outside. It doesn’t matter how small the distance you’re traveling.
- The mask should cover your entire nose, mouth, and chin.
The difference between face-masks and N95/N99 respirators
Face-masks prevent the infection-spread from the wearer to others nearby. On the other hand, N95/N99 respirators protect the wearer from getting infected. However, if everyone wears the face-masks, the spread of infection can be widely contained.
How often should you wash/replace the mask?
- Surgical masks shall never be re-used. However, when the inside surface of the mask gets moist, you may replace the mask. But never wash and re-use the surgical masks.
- WHO recommends washing your cloth mask at-least once a day.
- Replace the cloth-masks once they’re torn or dirty.
The video below depicts the proper way of washing your hands using a hand-wash or a soap. I’m sure many of you might’ve known this. But here’s a small recap.
In the comments section of this video, I saw comments like, “she’s wasting a lot of water,” “how’ll she get out of the washroom without touching the dirty door handle?”, etc. These are genuine questions. I’ll address them later in the post.
How often should you wash your hands?
You’ve to take note of certain cues to wash your hands. I’ve summarized them as ‘before’ and ‘after’ doing a particular activity, according to the CDC (America’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention).
It may be difficult to wash your hands every time before touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. So it’s better to keep a pocket hand-sanitizer. I suggest you buy small bottles of 50 ml or 100 ml sanitizer bottles so that you can carry it wherever you go. Whenever you touch a contaminated surface, immediately use the hand-sanitizer to get rid of the germs.
Note that sanitizers are not perfect replacements for washing the hands with soap or a hand-wash. Since washing the hands is not feasible everywhere, we use sanitizers.
Though hand-sanitizers are effective in killing the novel coronavirus, they may not kill all types of germs. So, if your hands are heavily soiled or greasy, it’s better to wash your hands with soap.
CDC recommends the usage of gloves only when you’re caring for someone who’s sick, or while cleaning and disinfecting your home. Otherwise, the usage of gloves in a public setting only leads to the spread of the germs.
If you’re a healthcare worker, then wear disposable gloves. It must be thrown away after every use.
The Personal hygiene routine
The hygiene routine that I’m about to suggest may not be the best one, but it helps. I’ve divided it into various scenarios one may encounter throughout the day.
While heading outside
- Wash your hands using a hand-wash or a soap.
- Wear your mask touching only the ear loops. Make sure that you keep the mask beside you, ready to wear once you’ve completed washing your hands.
- Then, take the necessary things that you need like bags, wallets, mobile phones, etc.
- Carry a handy hand-sanitizer and a bunch of tissue paper.
While at the office/workplace
- Never hand-shake with anyone. Follow the traditional Indian style of saying ‘Namaste.’
- If any part of your face feels itchy, sanitize your hands before touching your face.
- Maintain social distancing.
- You must be wearing the mask the whole time you’re at the office.
During Tea Break/Lunch at workplace
- If you’re served tea in a glass, make sure that it’s cleaned properly. But, always prefer a ‘use and throw’ paper cup over a glass cup.
- Before having lunch or tea, remove your mask by holding the ear loops. Then, carefully place it on the table/desk with its outer part touching the desk. Prefer placing it on your private table.
- Wash your hands thoroughly using a soap that’s available in the office. If there’s no soap, sanitize your hands, then wash it with water.
- If the washbasin is inside a restroom, make sure you use a tissue paper to hold the door handle after washing your hands. Then, throw it away into a dust-bin.
- After having your lunch/tea, wear the mask by touching only the ear loops.
When visiting an ATM
- Make sure your mask is intact.
- After collecting the cash and keeping it inside your wallet/purse, sanitize your hands.
- Remember that your wallet and the money inside are the most contaminated things. So every time you use your wallet or the cash, you’ve to sanitize your hands immediately.
- Before keeping the sanitizer back in its place inside your bag, pour a little bit of it in one of your palms. Once you’ve placed it inside the bag, rub both your palms with the sanitizer you’ve taken earlier.
- A simpler way is to touch the keypad of the ATM with a tissue paper. Once you’ve completed the transaction placed your money in the wallet, you can dispose of the tissue paper safely.
- Practice social distancing and wear masks.
- The products that you touch may be contaminated, so don’t touch your face while shopping.
- Once you come out of the shopping complex, remember to sanitize your hands properly.
On returning home
- Place your bags, watch, wallet/purse near the entrance of your home (they may contain germs).
- Head straight towards the bathroom and put your clothes in a bucket of water and soap. Wash your masks too.
- Take a bath and wear a fresh set of clothes.
- Now unpack the things that you’ve bought.
- Once unpacked, wash your hands thoroughly using water and soap or a handwash.
I can hear you asking, “What if the germs are on the grocery items or the items that I’ve just bought?” Though many doctors suggest you to sanitize the groceries, it’s practically not possible every time.
If you need to use something immediately after reaching home, make sure you wash your hands soon after unpacking it. For example, let’s say you’ve brought a pack of chocolates and you want to eat them immediately. Adopt the following sequence of activities before enjoying your chocolates.
- Remove the outer cover of the chocolates without touching the chocolates and the cover inside.
- Transfer the chocolates inside a container.
- Throw away the outer cover into a dustbin. If there’s any cover inside, retain it.
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
- Enjoy your chocolates.
I adopt this same procedure whenever I receive an online order. The outer package may be contaminated. I assume that the contents inside aren’t much contaminated because they would’ve been in transit for at least two days while being inside. That is, without being touched by anyone for two days. So even if there were any germs, it’d have died by the time it reaches you.
Mobile phone sanitation
Do you know that your mobile phone carries six times the germs in a toilet seat? Mobile phones, wallets/purse, cash, etc., are the carriers of germs. So every time you use them, remember to sanitize your hands. In a study, it was discovered that we touch our phones a whopping 2,617 times a day. So, the simple rule to follow is this.
While you’re outside, consider that everything is contaminated. That is, even your phone, wallet, dress, etc. So, the simple rule is to sanitize your hands whenever you feel the need to touch your face. And wash your hands before eating.
After reaching home, remember to clean the phone and its cover with soap and water. Yes, you’re reading it right. Unless the water enters the openings of the phone, cleaning your phone with soap and water is a good idea. Here’s a small video on how to do it.
Don’t forget to do this when you reach home. This may be a bit difficult to cultivate habit in the beginning, but it’s worth it. Make cleaning your mobile phone your daily hygiene routine, even after this virus leaves us.
I know I’ve piled too many activities in the name of a hygiene routine. But I assure you that this can protect you to the maximum extent. Since this virus is not going to leave us at any time soon, it’s better to adapt ourselves to this new routine. It protects not only from this virus but also from the threats to come in the future. Remember to wipe your bag as well with a soap solution as you saw above for the mobile phone. But, if you keep your bag at a place which you won’t access much, then don’t bother about cleaning it. Only when you take an item out of it, carry out the precautionary activities mentioned above. To make these activities your routine, you shall use the “Pointing and calling” method that I’ve written about in one of my previous posts.
Here’s the “Times of India” article on “7 safe practices to follow as you return home after grocery shopping“
WHO’s video on “How to hand-wash? With soap and water.”
BBC’s video on “How to clean your smartphone safely.”
“The difference between face-masks and N95/N99 respirators” was taken from the research paper “Use of cloth masks in the practice of infection control – evidence and policy gaps.”