It's safe to say we are living in an unprecedented time of uncertainty; with each day comes new apprehensions about COVID-19. With borders increasingly being sealed off, cities and businesses shuttering, and streets becoming deserted, life is quickly coming to an eerie standstill in many corners of the globe.
Yet, while the streets empty out, the constant flow of news (and misinformation) is overwhelming to say the least. We felt it was worth straightening up some crucial facts, and hashing out 5 key precautionary measures to protect yourself and your loved ones right now.
"Coronavirus is a completely different beast to the seasonal flu, and we should treat it as such."
First Things First, What is COVID-19?
While information about the virus is well and truly globalised by now, for those who are still unsure, COVID-19 (a.k.a Corona Virus Disease 2019) is a new disease from the Coronavirus family (others include MERS and SARS) that attacks the respiratory system. Since being detected in November 2019, it has spread like wildfire – as of mid-March, around 150 countries and territories have been affected.
How Does it Spread?
So far, evidence suggests that COVID-19 spreads from person-to-person through respiratory droplets that expel when sneezing or coughing – they can enter the body through the mouth, nose or eyes. You can also contract it through contaminated surfaces. The virus can survive for 2-3 days on plastic and stainless steel if not disinfected properly. This is why it's super important to wash your hands thoroughly and regularly, to minimise any transferral of bacteria from your hands to your face.
What are the Symptoms & What Should I Do if I Have Them?
COVID-19 causes symptoms similar to the flu—in particular, fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, and aches and pains. They may appear 2-14 days after exposure. It's important to note that while the symptoms may seem flu-like, this is not just like the seasonal flu. We repeat: COVID-19 is not like the seasonal flu. It's a completely different beast, and we should treat it as such. If you suspect you are sick, stay home and contact your GP right away.
"The virus can survive for up to 2-3 days on plastic and stainless steel surfaces, if not disinfected properly."
Now that the basics are out of the way, here are 5 simple measures you can take to amp up your protection:
1. Social Distancing Is More Important Than Ever
As there is no vaccine as of yet, this is currently the most effective way to slow the spread of the virus. This is particularly helpful for hospital workers who are overwhelmed and overworked because of the sheer number of infected cases happening all at once, and which are constantly rising.
Take this time to practise as much self-care as possible—something that often ends up being sidelined thanks to living busy lives. This is also a great time to build an effective skincare routine, so that your skin, and mind stay healthy.
2. You Could be a Carrier Even if You Don't Have Symptoms
It is possible to carry the virus without being aware you have it, and unknowingly pass it on to others in the process. A recent coronavirus study by a team of experts from Kyoto University, Oxford University, and Georgia State University, analysed data from the outbreak that happened aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship. It found that 17.9% of people who tested positive for COVID-19 showed no symptoms. Being asymptomatic is real, and this is exactly why it's important to practice social distancing.
Maintaining hygiene is key to protecting yourself from the virus.
3. Choose Soaps Over Hand Sanitisers, the Latter if You Are on the Go
Practising general hygiene is key to staying protected from infection. Essentially, Coronaviruses are a bunch of particles coated in protein and fat. Soaps and sanitisers can kill the particles by separating this fat and demolishing it.
While they’re both effective, the presence of sweat and dirt on hands can diminish the efficacy of sanitisers. So, if you have the option, stick to washing your hands with soap for 20 seconds or more. And if you’re using sanitisers, make sure it contains at least 70% alcohol.
"Being asymptomatic is real, and this is exactly why it's important to practice social distancing."
4. Face Masks Really Can Do A lot To Protect You
While wearing a face mask will not guarantee to keep you safe from infection, it is certainly better than nothing. Clinical face masks are moderately effective at capturing cough droplets, and they can help filter out some of the particles expelled by those who may be infected near you. Plus, if you touch a contaminated surface unknowingly, wearing a mask will stop you from touching your face and infecting yourself that way.
With that being said, make sure you know how to use a face mask properly. Replace it once it’s damp, discard it in closed bins, and never use the same mask more than once a day. Additionally, you cannot wash or clean a disposable face masks. They are designed to trap nasty micro particles, which are difficult to then get rid of – your mask, therefore, can become a breeding ground for bacteria if used for too long. If you use a non-disposable face mask, make sure to wash it often with soap and hot water and replace the filters regularly (if applicable).
5. Why You Should Boost Your Immune System
It is especially important to strengthen your immune system so your body can fight off potentially harmful bacteria if it needs to. A number of home remedies and simple lifestyle changes can help: get lots of regular sleep daily, so your body can heal and regenerate overnight. Consume foods like garlic, ginger, turmeric, and lemon to give your body a quick system boost and general cleanse! Finally, give your body a healthy dose of daily vitamins for stronger immunity.
Exercise regularly. This will rid your body of toxins and elevate your mood. Plus soak up the sun when you can for some vitamin D, and keep your spirits high with some light-hearted entertainment!
Now is the time to extend support to friends, family, and the wider community who are also likely experiencing stress, uncertainty, and anxiety. While it may seem like COVID-19 is not going anywhere, remember we're all in this together – selflessness and awareness will only help towards getting through this as one!