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Yes, you read that right. This coronavirus pandemic has gotten to the point where thousands of people are dying every single day. As of March 29th, 20202, there were 3,461 new deaths in the past day, and the total number of deaths is doubling every six days. (You can view the latest data here.)
From the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, medical professionals have advised us to be scrupulous about washing our hands and not touching our faces. One of the main ways we can protect ourselves — and others — from this virus is through good personal hygiene.
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In addition to helping lessen the spread of this highly contagious disease, survival hygiene can help us in other emergency situations as well. The concept of survival hygiene involves knowing and practicing safe sanitation in wilderness situations or times of human-made or natural crises when the conveniences of modern life are interrupted.
While the ongoing coronavirus crisis is not disrupting our power and water supplies, we can still learn from many of the survival hygiene principles. Let’s look at some good habits you and your family members should be practicing.
Effective hand washing is not just a quick rinse under the faucet. A thorough hand cleaning involves soap and water and a scrubbing time of at least 20 seconds. You can count or sing “Happy Birthday” twice while you are rubbing your hands together, or check out this NPR article for other 20-second song ideas.
Here’s when to wash your hands throughout the day:
- After coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.
- After being in a public place.
- Before and after caring for a sick person.
- Before and after caring for a wound.
- Before, during and after food preparation.
- Before eating food.
- After using the toilet.
- After disposing of human or pet waste.
- After disposing of garbage.
- After changing a diaper.
If you’re not near a faucet, clean your hands with disinfectant or alcohol wipes like these.
Avoid shaking hands. The practice is ingrained in our culture, but it can spread the contagious coronavirus quickly. Instead of a handshake, you could bow, do an elbow bump, or simply use your words to greet someone.
Be more conscious of touching door handles and light switches that can harbor germs. Use your elbow to turn on lights and your foot to flush the toilet, for example. Use a paper towel to lift the gasoline nozzle. Hold doors open with your hip or elbow.
For times when there is no other option than using your hand, carry disinfectant wipes with you to clean the surface first. You can also use wipes to clean grocery carts, public bathroom faucets, and business doors. Be sure to dispose of the dirty wipes promptly.
Keep a bottle of hand sanitizer (here’s how to make your own) in your car or your purse for times when you can’t immediately wash your hands. Cover the surfaces of your hands with the sanitizer and then rub your hands together until they feel dry. Keep your fingernails clean and trimmed as they can harbor germs.
Coughing and Sneezing
Experts believe the coronavirus is mostly spread through droplets caused by coughing and sneezing. These droplets can land on many surfaces with which we come into contact.
Aim to cough and sneeze away from people and food and into a disposable tissue. Dispose of the tissue immediately. If you cannot get a tissue in time, turn away from other people and cough or sneeze into your elbow.
Disposable Masks and Gloves
Although the CDC originally told people not to bother wearing masks, it is not believed that they said this in order to stop people from panic-buying the country’s entire supply of masks, which are needed for healthcare workers.
In reality, many experts believe that wearing a facemask in public can reduce your odds of catching or spreading coronavirus. In fact, people in China are still wearing facemasks in public, and you can get arrested for not having one. So it stands to reason that it must do some good.
Besides, it will help you to stop touching your face. Studies show we touch our noses or mouths an average of 90 times per day, mostly without even realizing it. Facial contact can introduce the coronavirus into the body, so we need to minimize the time we touch our noses, eyes, and mouths.
If you are ill, wear a mask like this one when you are around other people, including when you enter a medical office. If you are not ill, wear a mask if you are caring for someone who is sick.
Bathing and Clothes Washing
Experts are still learning about the coronavirus, but they are reporting that the infectious droplets can survive on surfaces and clothing for several days. As a result, it is essential to wash our bodies with soap and water in addition to our hands.
The main parts of our bodies that are breeding places for the disease are the hands, as we have discussed, but they are followed by the armpits, hair, crotch, and feet.
Remember that elbow you sneezed into earlier? Those infectious droplets can survive for hours on your sleeve, so be sure to wash clothing regularly with detergent and water.
Mouth and Teeth Cleaning
Good mouth hygiene is also an essential part of health. Plan to brush and floss your teeth at least twice a day. Toothbrushes can harbor large amounts of germs. Keep your family members’ toothbrushes separate and clean them with hydrogen peroxide regularly. Replace old toothbrushes with new ones after an illness.
Look for EPA-registered household disinfectants or make your own using household bleach. Mix five tablespoons bleach into one gallon of water or four teaspoons bleach per quart of water. Never mix household bleach with ammonia or another cleanser.
Here are some other hygiene tips from the CDC:
- Disinfect frequently used hard surfaces such as tables, desks, doorknobs, and handrails on a daily basis.
- Increase home ventilation by opening windows whenever possible.
- Limit food and beverage sharing.
- Clean all cooking, serving, and eating utensils thoroughly and regularly.
- Whenever possible, give sick family members their own room and have only one person care for them.
- Disinfect your cell phone daily. It’s easier than you think. On March 9, Apple announced that Clorox Disinfecting Wipes and other similar products with 70 percent isopropyl alcohol can be used to “gently” clean the exterior of iPhones. “Don’t use bleach,” Apple warns in the recent statement. “Avoid getting moisture in any openings, and don’t submerge your iPhone in any cleaning agents.
Other frequently used items you should disinfect include :
- Computer keyboard and mouse (here’s how)
- Smart speakers
- TV surface and remote
- Debit cards and charge cards
For more disinfection guidance related to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, visit the CDC website.
Remember, It’s Not About You
If you’re young and healthy or don’t think the coronavirus is worth worrying about, remember this: it’s not about you. If you get infected with coronavirus, you’re more likely to infect someone else—someone who might be old or have a weak immune system.
So you see, survival hygiene isn’t just about saving your own life. It’s about saving the lives of those around you.
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