Coronavirus Prevention –- Is There a Solution in Hand?
Yes. Simple and frequent hand-washing may reduce your chances of contracting the coronavirus as well as the flu and many other diseases. But, as is the case with other hygiene practices, it must be done properly in order to work.
You might ask, “What do my hands have to do with a respiratory virus?” Studies show that the primary means of contracting most respiratory viruses such as the coronavirus occurs when our mucous membranes come into contact with viral particles that have been expelled into the air by means of a cough, or a sneeze.
Some studies, such as those led by the University of Maryland in College Park, found that many people released flu virus particles into the air by merely exhaling their breath when speaking. This also looks like it may apply to coronavirus as well.
In addition to coming into contact with airborne particles, our mucous membranes can also come into contact with infectious pathogens after we touch a contaminated surface and then touch our faces. Some medical authorities believe that the flu virus is spread more commonly through touch than via airborne pathogens. I would agree.
I often quote a study by the American Journal of Infection Control, where it would appear that the average person touches their face 23 times per hour, and that 44% of that time we touch an area with a mucus membrane. Alarmingly, the subjects in this study touched their mouths 36% of the time, their noses 31% of the time, and their eyes 27% of the time. The subjects were medical students (a group that should appreciate the dangers of frequent face touching), so one can imagine that for the general population, the number of times per hour is likely greater.
With these facts in mind, you can see why washing your hands often, especially during these key times when you are likely to get and spread germs, plays such an integral part in helping yourself and your loved ones stay healthy.
Soap molecules remove bacteria and viruses more effectively than does water alone. Soap consists of molecules that both bind with water and fats. In the case of viruses that are surrounded by a lipid (fatty) envelope (like the coronavirus and influenza A, for instance) soap disrupts this envelope by essentially poking holes in its defenses. In addition to disrupting the fatty layer of the virus, soap molecules also form around the virus or other agent and help to suspend it in the water, so that the virus rinses off much more easily. For a more on how soap works see this detailed article in the New York Times.
How To Effectively Wash Your Hands?
The keys are for at least 20 seconds, lathering up well, and something I would add, making sure you rub the tips of your thumbs into your palms in a circular motion (they are often neglected!). The CDC recommends following these five steps every time you wash your hands:
- Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
- Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
- Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
- Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
In addition to social distancing and, staying home unless it’s absolutely necessary to go out, you need to wash your hands (to quote the CDC), “After you have been in a public place and touched an item or surface that may be frequently touched by other people, such as door handles, tables, gas pumps, shopping carts, or electronic cashier registers/screens, etc.”
So, in closing, be well and remember that your healthcare providers at Truesdale are always here for you and your family. If you have any questions or concerns about your health, give them a call.