How to avoid COVID-19 and other germs

wuhan virus tips

Contagious diseases like the Wuhan virus, H5N1 bird flu and H1N1 swine flu have swept the region in recent months, and hand sanitisers, disinfectants and face masks have been flying off the shelves. Locally, the Singaporean government has recently stepped in to provide households with masks and even a list of cleaning products effective against the Wuhan virus. 

To cut through the fake news, we’ve compiled a list of seven supplementary tips backed by studies that might help in our fight against the Wuhan coronavirus, H1N1 and other diseases. Take note – these points might save lives!

1. Sneeze into your elbow

In these tense times, the slightest sneeze or cough on the MRT is enough to earn you harsh stares from fellow commuters as they give you a wide berth even if you’re not Wuhan-infected. But with locally transmitted cases on the rise, even for the asymptomatic, precautions should be taken.

Dabbing sneezing into your elbow keeps your hands germ-free.

Singapore’s Ministry of Health (MOH) advises those unwell to wash their hands every time they sneeze or cough because hands still get filled with germs even when using a tissue. However, it’s not always possible to find a toilet to wash your hands, and we might forget to do so sometimes.

The solution? Sneeze into your elbow. Health authorities in the United States have been encouraging the American public to sneeze and cough into their elbows in a decades-long campaign against the seasonal flu virus. It seems crazy, but dabbing might really be effective against the Wuhan virus.

2. Use your elbow to push lift buttons

Lift buttons, door handles and grab poles on public transit – these are just some things most people touch on a daily basis without much thought. As a result, these surfaces harbour the most germs that are spread by contact, however brief.

Use your elbows to push lift buttons
Using your elbows helps minimise germ transfer from common surfaces to your face.

A simple solution? Minimise hand contact with these surfaces as far as possible. If necessary, using your elbow, back of your arm or wristbone might decrease the transfer of germs to your hand – where they absentmindedly get rubbed in your eye or dumped in your mouth as you pick your teeth after a hearty lunch.

Pro tip: if you want to be doubly sure, some experts suggest using keys, pens or even tissues to avoid skin contact with these surfaces.

3. Avoid contact between your bottle and water dispenser

If you have a habit of bringing a water bottle to your workplace or school, try to avoid those refill points that require users to press the rims of their bottles to dispense water. Saliva from other users’ bottles might get transferred to these tabs, only to be rubbed all over on your beloved flask. 

Avoid water dispensers that require contact with your bottle.
Common surfaces like water dispensers can harbour germs.

Instead, opt for dispensers where no contact by your bottle is required. If you can’t find any, or just want to be doubly sure, opt for store-bought mineral water or pack your hydration to school or work.

Pro tip: In a pinch, you can simply use your finger to depress the lever to avoid contact with your bottle – just remember to wash your hands after!

4. Use paper towels instead of hand driers in toilets

Warm, moist and constantly fed germs, hand driers in public toilets are often complete cesspools. How then, do you dry your hands after your regular hand-washes?

Paper towels are a better option than hand driers in common toilets.
Opt to thoroughly dry your hands with paper towels instead of using hand driers. 

Experts recommend using paper towels, but I find that with a few vigorous jerks of your hands into the sink, they get pretty dry. Be careful, though: leaving your hands moist will also encourage bacterial growth on your paws.

5. Take vitamin C even before any symptoms show up

If you’re reaching for the tissues the same time you reach for your oranges, it’s far too late. Vitamin C does play a part in aiding our immune system, but it will not cure the flu nor its symptoms.

Consume the recommended dose of vitamin C even before symptoms start
If you take supplements, be sure to follow the recommended dosage listed on the bottle. 

While you can obtain your vitamin C from supplements and citrus fruits, vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and kale also work. The Recommended Daily Allowance for men stands at 90mg a day, while women should aim to consume around 75mg of vitamin C daily. For reference, the average orange delivers around 70mg of the good stuff.

6. Clean your smartphones regularly with wet wipes

Smartphones have got to be the best companion on your daily pilgrimages to the loo – the ultimate time-killer and ultimate… germ carrier.

Sanitise your smartphones and other personal belongings regularlyAlcohol swabs and other antimicrobial wipes should be regularly used to disinfect your smartphone and other belongings.

You might religiously and thoroughly cleanse your hands after a trip to the toilet, but the moment you reach for your phone, the microbial fiesta that boards your smartphone happily makes a homecoming back onto your person. 

To avoid this, specialised alcohol-based screen wipes can be used to scrub your entire phone down, but you can also choose to use antimicrobial wet-wipes.

7. Close the lid of the toilet before you flush

Wonder why hand driers mentioned above are filthy cesspools? You can thank the clouds of faecal matter that rocket out of toilet bowls in a “toilet plume” whenever they are flushed after use. Microscopic waste particles and germs float around on a fine mist before they are deposited on surfaces around the toilet and beyond.

Close the lid of the toilet before you flush
Closing the lid of the toilet when flushing can prevent the spread of germs.

Experts suggest that closing the lid while flushing might help reduce this funky, faecal aerosol, although some suggest that using a toilet with lower flush energy would also be beneficial.  

Faecal matter has been found to be a possible transmission mode for the coronavirus, so it pays to take precautions!

Tips to avoid the Wuhan virus in Singapore

Everyone has a part to play in practising good hygiene to curb the spread of diseases like the Wuhan virus. It pays to familiarise yourself with the official Singapore Ministry of Health (MOH) Wuhan coronavirus guidance while avoiding spreading fake news

While these seven tips have been backed by studies, they are by no means fool-proof ways to protect yourself from the Wuhan virus or other contagious diseases. Keep safe, Stay educated, and take precautions for the wellbeing of yourself and those around you!

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