When the COVID-19 pandemic first struck, infectious disease experts took up the same refrain they do every flu season about preventing the spread of a viral infection — wash your hands, don’t touch your face, keep your distance, and cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough.
While these are excellent recommendations at all times, we’ve gained a new understanding of their importance during this health care crisis.
At Forest Urgent Care, our team of health care providers wants to ensure that our clients weather this crisis in great health. To that end, we’re going to add our voices to the CDC’s recommendations about handwashing, social distancing, and wearing masks, which are some of the most most important steps you can take to avoid viral infections, such as COVID-19 and the flu.
Your hands and your health
Consider for a moment all the surfaces, people, and objects your hands come into contact with under normal circumstances. Now consider how many times you touch your hands to your face. Each time you touch a surface and then touch your face, you may be inadvertently transferring harmful germs to your body.
To minimize your exposure to harmful viral agents in this way, your best line of defense is handwashing.
Washing your hands every time you touch something may be impractical, so here are the CDC recommendations for when to wash your hands:
- Before eating
- Before, during, and after preparing food
- After using the restroom
- After changing a diaper or helping a child use the toilet
- After coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose
- Before and after caring for a sick person
- Before and after cleaning up a cut or wound
- After touching an animal or animal waste
- After handling pet food or pet treats
- After touching garbage or trash cans
In many of these instances, you can wear gloves to protect your hands, but remember that your gloves can carry germs, so you need to dispose of them after every use.
How to wash up
Now that you have a better idea of when to wash your hands, let’s take a look at the how. While antimicrobial soaps tout their ability to clear away nearly 100% of harmful microbes, the fact is that washing with any soap and water is highly effective.
In fact, it’s more important to focus on how you wash your hands than the soap you’re using. For example, ensuring that you wash all surfaces of your hands is paramount, as an ineffective wash job can leave infectious agents behind. When you wash, get in between your fingers and wash the fronts and backs of your hands, and even up your wrist a little.
Be sure to scrub for 20 seconds and then rinse thoroughly, as the washing only lifts the microbes which you then need to flush away.
Finally, when you dry your hands, make sure you’re using a clean towel that isn’t harboring potentially harmful microbes. You can also air dry your hands and avoid a towel altogether.
If you’re away from a sink, we recommend using hand sanitizers, but be aware that certain products can be harmful, such as those that contain methanol. To learn more, check out these FDA guidelines.
Keep your distance
The next recommendation for stopping the spread of COVID-19 is to keep your distance from others. The virus is spread through respiratory droplets, so the recommended distance is six feet — a distance these droplets typically can’t travel beyond without falling to the ground. This is especially important when you’re indoors since the air may not be circulating as much as it outside.
Wear a mask or face covering
As we’ve just explored, the virus is mostly spread through respiratory droplets, so we urge you to wear a mask any time you’re outside your home and among other people. This measure is largely in place to prevent you from spreading COVID-19 to others. Please note that even though you may not feel any symptoms, you still may have the infection and be contagious.
Everyone should wear a mask, except for children under the age of two.
If you have more questions about protecting yourself against viral infections, contact one of our New York offices in Forest Hills or Hunters Point, Long Island City.