Wearing masks, Covering our coughs/sneezes properly, Cleaning and Hand Washing to kill Viruses and Bacteria
Viruses have no cure. Vaccines are our best protection, but some viruses (like the Novel Coronavirus) don’t have a vaccine yet. Our best protection in one, mega-important word, is … “prevention”.
Eating healthy and exercise helps our bodies fight an infection. Here are the best practices to prevent even coming into contact with a virus (including the Novel Coronavirus).
While it’s unnecessary and impractical to implement maximum prevention measures such as wearing a hazmat suit, during times of higher infection rates (ie, during the current outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus) there are several preventive measures we can take.
Most extreme, yet practical – wear a mask. This prevents, or severely inhibits, the chance a virus will unwittingly be breathed in through the nose or mouth. For even more protection (only recommended when visiting an infectious area), one can also wear earplugs and eye protection to prevent the virus from entering our bodies through those inlets (while it’s more rare that we contract a virus through our eyes or ears, it does happen).
Wash your hands – although you’ve heard this since kindergarten, many adults still don’t do it right. You need 20 seconds of contact with an antibacterial soap (which often just contains alcohol) and warm water. Just a couple of seconds with a quick wash will not be enough to kill the virus. Additionally, don’t touch your eyes, ears, nose, or mouth area with unwashed hands. Make sure to wash after touching anything in public, being especially careful after touching money, pin/key pads, door handles, public pens.
Wipe your hands with an alcohol pad – Contact with alcohol for around 30 seconds can kill most (not all) viruses. The downside to using an alcohol pad is it will dry out your skin and often require moisturizing lotion to avoid discomfort. Isopropyl, “Rubbing” alcohol, as it’s called in the US, at 70% is recommended for skin use, although they commonly sell it in strengths of 60% and 90%. 70% is a little easier on the skin than the 90%. (Note: isopropyl alcohol is poisonous and should NEVER be ingested – this is not the same as drinking alcohol).
Use hand sanitizer – just like with soap, many people don’t use this correctly. Just slopping on a handful of gel won’t necessarily do the job. You need to rub your hands for around 30 seconds and let the sanitizer dry (don’t wipe it off before the 30 second mark).
Cover all coughs and sneezes … with your arm/inner elbow/tissue, NOT your hand – Coughing and sneezing into your hand actually helps to spread disease as soon as you touch something (door handle, credit/debit card pin pad, table, phone, etc.) So, blow it into a tissue if you have one, or your middle arm if you don’t, and leave your hands out of it.
Clean surfaces regularly with 10% bleach … and leave it on for a while – When we go into society, we touch all sorts of surfaces that other people touch - door handles, money, credit/debit card pin pads, tables, etc. While it may be impractical to wipe down every pin pad we come across in public, we can wipe down many surfaces in our home and at work. A daily wipe down of the most common surfaces we put our grubby little paws on can help prevent illness – especially, those computer touchpads and mice, our phones, door handles, tables, light switches, steering wheels, gear shifts, etc.
(If someone shows symptoms) Keep your living/working place well-ventilated – At home, make sure your central air unit is turned on (fan only is fine). If you don’t live in a home with a central air unit, crack a couple of windows and turn on a fan (away from any sick person) to circulate the air. It’s important to have good flow of air out of the home and any room which contains a person with symptoms. Keep people with symptoms separate from other members of the house and do not share towels, or the same bed. At work, do what you can to ensure there is good ventilation. Working in rooms without ventilation alongside other people increases the chance of infection.
Should I use BLEACH or ALCOHOL?
• The rule is: Bleach for surfaces, Alcohol for skin (but not for cuts).
• To disinfect surfaces, it’s recommended to use a 10% solution of bleach. Any brand is fine and a higher percent (ie, 15% or 20%) is NOT necessarily more effective.
• Leave bleach on for (recommended) 10 minutes before wiping off. Just spraying some bleach (even straight 100% bleach) onto a surface and wiping it off will NOT kill viruses or bacteria. Bleach MUST have extended contact time with the surface to kill the organisms we are trying to kill.
• Time is key, strength is not – stronger concentrations of bleach are NOT more effective at killing viruses and bacteria. Longer amounts of time ARE effective, so let that stuff soak awhile.
• Alcohol (strangely) doesn’t work as well on surfaces as bleach – Isopropyl (Rubbing) alcohol is widely known as the gold standard for disinfecting ‘things’. But this is misleading. Alcohol evaporates very quickly and doesn’t stay moist long enough to kill viruses and bacteria. Bleach doesn’t evaporate quickly, making it the best choice for surfaces. Also, alcohol is not very effective at killing many types of mold spores and other fungus, but bleach is.
• Don’t use bleach on your skin. Don’t use alcohol on cuts. – Bleach is very caustic to your skin, so use 70% alcohol instead. However, alcohol is actually too strong to be used on cuts, so instead use hydrogen peroxide to disinfect cuts (the commonly sold 3% solution is what you want). Alcohol can, and should, be used to sterilize needles or any object that may come into contact with a cut but should never be used on the open wound itself.
• Do disinfectant sprays and wipes work? Yes they do, IF you use them correctly. Remember the above tip – time is key. Both sprays and wipes contain alcohol mixed with another liquid that prevents the alcohol from evaporating as quickly (this other liquid also usually contains a fragrance, so we’ll like the aroma).
Proper ways to use disinfectant sprays and wipes:
Clean surfaces first with warm water, clean cloth, or paper towel. You can use bleach if you wish.
Spray, or wipe, the surface. Don’t wipe off. Leave on until it evaporates, or for at least 6 minutes.
If, after 6 minutes, you wish to dry the area, then dry it with a clean cloth or paper towel. Do NOT use soap and water at this point. The alcohol, even dried, will continue to kill those nasty beasties.
Recommended: World Health Organization - "Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) advice for the public"