Coronavirus and Barrier Gestures: What precautions should be taken?
Published Mar 26, 2020 • Updated Mar 31, 2020 • By Candice Salomé
Beginning March 23rd, 2020, certain cities and states with the United States have started issuing stay-at-home orders in response to the coronavirus pandemic, as the number of infected patients rises with each passing day. In the absence of treatment, it is essential to respect certain measures to avoid transmission of the virus.
How can you avoid getting sick? How should you avoid transmission in case of infection? Are you well informed about the various precautions you should be taking in your daily life?
Let's take a look at the barrier gestures we should all be adopting.
What are the barrier gestures to adopt to protect oneself from the coronavirus?
The CDC has identified several recommendations that must be followed closely:
The measures are as followed:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds, especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
- Use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available
- Avoid contact with people who are sick and put distance between yourself and other people
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your elbow (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
- Throw used tissues in the trash and immediately wash your hands
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
Washing your hands: sure, but how?
Numerous health authorities recommend washing your hands every hour (even when staying at home) and compulsorily after going out or having been in contact with a sick person.
To wash your hands properly, it is important to follow a few simple guidelines, such as:
- Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold),
- Lather your hands generously by rubbing them together with soap,
- Make sure to get the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails,
- Scrub your for at least 20 seconds,
- Rinse your hands well under clean, running water,
- Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
This video from the World Health Organization (WHO) will give you a good idea of what effective handwashing looks like:
To make sure that you wash your hands for the proper amount of time, here's a little tip: need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice. :)
What are some tips for effectively cleaning your home?
Besides ensuring proper personal hygiene to prevent the spread of the virus, other measures must be taken at home to minimise the risks:
- Use your usual household cleaning products, like detergent and bleach, as well as EPA-registered household disinfectants, when you clean your home. Use disinfectants appropriate for the surface.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. Common surfaces include tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
- Wash your laundry in the washing machine in the usual way.
- Dirty laundry from an ill person can be washed with other people’s items, but you may want to wear gloves while handling it or wash your hands immediately following. If possible, launder items using the warmest appropriate water setting for the items and dry items completely. Do not shake dirty laundry, as this may spread the virus in the air.
And of course, after cleaning, it is important to wash your hands properly (as explained above). You can consult the CDC's complete disinfection guidelines here.
Under what conditions is it recommended to wear a mask?
Both WHO and the CDC have indicated that wearing masks is not necessary among the general population. Wearing a mask when they are not needed deprives healthcare professionals, the sick and those who have been in proven contact with a sick person from obtaining them. In fact there is a shortage of masks across the globe.
So who are the masks reserved for? Which masks are recommended against the coronavirus?
A person suspected of having symptoms of a respiratory infection or who is known to be ill can wear a mask to protect others.
There are two sorts of masks:
- Surgical masks are loose-fitting, disposable device that create a physical barrier between the mouth and nose of the wearer. While a surgical mask may be effective in blocking splashes and large-particle droplets, it cannot not filter or block very small particles in the air that may be transmitted by coughs, sneezes, or certain medical procedures. In the case of the coronavirus pandemic, these masks are reserved for patients or people who are known to be in contact with a patient.
- N95 Respirators - are safety masks with a very close facial fit and a high level of filtration of airborne particles. The 'N95' designations means that the respirator blocks at least 95% of small particles. If well-fitted, respirators protect the wearer from particles better than surgical masks, but regardless of fit it cannot eliminate the risk of infection. These devices are reserved for professionals throughout the health system (medical transport, firefighters, doctors, nurses, etc.) and are not intended for the general public.
What if we make our own masks?
While standard personal protective equipment is clearly recommended and preferred, the CDC has indicated that medical professionals can resort to homemade masks in times of crisis.
This could even be an activity to fill the time whilst in self-isolation at home!
A number of patterns have been made available online, including one from the Grenoble University Hospital. Online patterns use various layers of materials, but if you are short of fabric, the CDC found in 2006 that cotton t-shirts were effective in making homemade masks.
Caution, the effectiveness of homemade masks has not been studied by the NHS and it is very important to secure the mask on the face (for airtightness) and to wash it daily at at least 86°C with detergent. According to the Grenoble University Hospital, it is "a complementary option for those who would like it and who are not in direct contact with patients". Indeed, only standard masks are suitable for patients (suspected, tested, etc.) and carers.
What precautions should you take when leaving your home?
If you have to go out of your home to do your grocery shopping, there are certain steps you should take to reduce the risk of infection.
For example, take your own bags or cart. It is important not to use supermarket baskets, as they are not always disinfected after a customer has left.
Furthermore, to limit the risks, it is advised to touch as few things as possible, bearing in mind that the virus enters through the mucous membrane (nose, mouth, eyes). It is therefore important to be careful not to touch your face while shopping.
Contrary to what one might think, wearing gloves is not necessarily a good idea, because according to WHO, they can still pick up the virus and spread contamination. The only effective barrier is hand washing.
Finally, be sure to observe social distancing measures. It is recommended that you keep at least 3 feet of distance from others.
As the virus can survive for several hours on cardboard or plastic packaging, the first thing to do when you get home is to remove all packaging and wash your hands between each step!
In case of symptoms, how should you monitor your condition?
In the case of COVID-19, recovery usually occurs within a few days with rest and, if necessary, with treatment for fever. However, it is important to monitor your condition.
It is recommended that you take your temperature twice a day. If you have a temperature, then take ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Nuprin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol and others) to bring it down. Do not exceed recommended doses.
At this time, the Food & Drug Administration finds that there is no scientific evidence that use of NSAIDs like ibuprofen can worsen the coronavirus (COVID-19). If you wish to use treatment options other than NSAIDs, there are many over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications approved for pain relief and fever reduction. If you have been prescribed a daily medication for your chronic condition, do not stop taking it without consulting your doctor.
Also, call your loved ones as much as possible to reassure them and call your doctor if you have any doubt about the progression of your symptoms. If you develop emergency warning signs like trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse, or bluish lips or face, call 9-1-1 and get medical attention immediately. Make sure to make the operator aware that you believe you may have COVID-19 or have COVID-19 symptoms.
If you live alone, ask your family and friends to deliver your medications, groceries or meals. Make sure they leave them at your door to limit contact.
How can you protect those around you from COVID-19?
To protect your loved ones from the virus, it is best to avoid contact (do not touch or kiss them), and to keep a distance of three feet even within your own home.
If possible, make sure you stay in a separate room with the door closed. Do not share your bed and eat your meals away from members of your household.
As you would do outside the home, it is recommended that you wash your hands very often with soap or hand sanitizer and use single-use tissues that you then put in a closed trash can.
Finally, clean the bathroom after each visit with bleach or disinfectants..
What about our pets in all this?
As dogs and cats often roll around on the ground, it is important to wash them well, especially under these circumstances. It is recommended to use a special shampoo for cats or dogs and dry them well afterwards. Under no circumstances should hand sanitiser gel or disinfectant be used, as these products could be very dangerous to pets. The Humane Society of the United States and its European partner organization, Humane Society International have both published articles addressing COVID-19 and animals. They provide answers regarding: the spread of COVID-19, steps that should be taken to protect our pets, how to organize care for animals in case of hospitalization, etc.
What do you think of all these measures? Are you able to apply them in your daily life?
Do you plan on making your own masks at home?
Feel free share your thoughts down below!