Despite all the people panic-shopping massive stockpiles of toilet paper, it’s keeping our hands clean that represents the best defense against the coronavirus (a.k.a. COVID-19). COVID-19 spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes virus-containing droplets that an uninfected person introduces to their lungs either by directly inhaling the droplets or by contacting them and then touching the nose or mouth. By now, you’ve probably become more vigilant regarding coughing, sneezing, and keeping your hands clean to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). However, many of us could use a little refresher on how to wash hands so they are virus-free – and keep them that way.
It’s about time, not temperature
When washing your hands with soap and water, using hot water isn’t necessary, and too much heat could compel you to shorten your wash time. The friction of vigorous washing for at least 20 seconds is far more important than water temperature. If you use a hand sanitizer, make sure it’s at least 60% alcohol-based. Baby wipes and other alternatives to alcohol-based products won’t kill COVID-19.
Avoid un-washing your hands
So now your hands are thoroughly clean. Well done! Here are the top 15 common things that you will touch that will require that you clean them again.
- The sink you just used. The faucets on the sink, especially in a public bathroom, have more biological contamination than the toilet seat. So use a paper towel to turn off the water. And make sure your hands are thoroughly dry after you’re done washing them.
- Doorknobs, handles, switches. These are areas that are touched by a lot of people with dirty hands. When dealing with a knob, handle, or switch, try using anything but your fingers, such as an elbow, shoulder, wrist, or a closed fist. Keep a pocket-pack of facial tissue handy for potentially contaminated things you must manipulate with your fingers.
- Cell phones. Our devices are filthy, and we’re incessantly touching them. Any gross thing you’ve ever touched is on your screen. So, if you wash your hands and then use your phone, you just unwashed them with your most complete collection of germs. Some good news: Apple recently added a disinfecting protocol to its care guide. They recommend a 70% alcohol-based wipe or a Clorox disinfecting wipe to clean your iPhone. It might shorten the life of the oleophobic coating that protects your screen, but it’s a no-brainer.
- Keys. That fob and its buttons are getting grosser by the day, and you’re spreading it to your pockets, purse, or wherever you put your keys. Get the Lysol.
- Your car. Your car is your kingdom, and your kingdom needs a good cleaning. The door handle, steering wheel, and console are rife with contamination from your hands every day (not to mention coughs or sneezes), and COVID can live perhaps a week on a hard surface. It’s a good idea to keep hand sanitizer in your car and have anyone entering the car clean their hands with it. That way you can keep your car as a “clean zone.”
- Wallets and purses. COVID-19 doesn’t survive as long on soft materials, but the wallet is an item that gets touched a lot and never cleaned. Purses are worse. These bags are a cozy cave of frequently touched items, including used tissues and face-touching cosmetics.
- ATM cards. Here’s the one item you often must hand to a stranger to handle for a few moments then take it back. The cashier’s hands have potentially touched hundreds of cards, which have been handled by hundreds of owners as well as by other cashiers, who have touched hundreds of other cards, and so on. Cashiers are like the cruise ships of retail germ exchange. Thankfully, many businesses are adopting payment by phone at the point of purchase. Your phone is probably gross, but you can get better about that, and it gives you a sort of hands-free way to pay.
- ATM machines, checkout PIN-pads, and public touchscreens. This is the same smorgasbord of germs you have on your cell phone, except it has everyone else’s germs. If you don’t have a tissue handy, use a knuckle on your non-dominant hand, then wash your hand.
- Cash. Did you ever notice that toll booth operators usually wear gloves? That’s because they handle a lot of cash, and doing that with bare hands, even before COVID-19, would put them at risk for illness. If you must handle cash, wash or sanitize your hands.
- The office coffee maker. Whether it’s a Keurig or an old-school pot of Joe, this is a shared appliance. The Keurig has buttons that are often touched and rarely cleaned, and the handle of the coffee pot is notoriously dirty. If you’re going to touch these, you should wipe them down with a disinfecting alcohol-based wipe or you will need to rewash your hands. By the way, it’s probably your turn to clean the appliance.
- Water cooler & water fountains. Unless it’s the kind of water cooler that lets you use the cup to engage the dispenser, it has a big gross button that everyone touches and no one cleans. Newer public water fountains have large buttons designed to be operated without direct contact with fingers, but it’s still a publicly shared appliance with proximity to many mouths.
- Elevator buttons. These buttons are notoriously dirty, but building operators are starting to beef up cleaning efforts due to the COVID-19 situation. Still, you should press the button with a tissue or use a knuckle on your non-dominant hand and wash it later. Or get some exercise and take the stairs.
- Gas pump. This shared hand-held pump is groped by thousands upon thousands without cleaning. It reeks of gasoline, and sadly that’s the least gross thing about it. Wash or sanitize your hands after using them.
- Remote controls. Other than your cell phone, few items get touched as much as the remote control, and it’s shared more often than your phone. Remotes are also common in nursing homes, doctor’s waiting rooms, and hospital rooms, where the risk of contamination is even greater.
- Menus. People often blame restaurants for mysterious illnesses, but what they rarely consider is that if they did get sick from the restaurant, it was more likely from handling the menu than the food. Laminated menus are just one more item that are used by many people without being cleaned, so you might want to wash or sanitize your hands after you order and before you eat.
Sanitizing or avoiding these items, will help you keep your hands clean to prevent you from spreading COVID-19 to yourself or others. If you have the symptoms of COVID-19, you should isolate yourself from others by staying home and alert your physician. For more information, consult the Center for Disease Control’s prevention and treatment guidelines.
These tips are especially important if you have a loved one in a nursing home, where the influx of COVID-19 has a disastrous impact. The attorneys at Brown & Barron specialize in representing nursing home residents who have been neglected or abused. We know, first-hand, how these facilities function, and just how vulnerable residents are.
To learn more about how the coronavirus is affecting Nursing Homes and their residents, see our page devoted to blogs on this topic. Also, if you believe you or a family member has suffered as a result of nursing home negligence, call our team today at (410) 698-1717 to learn more about your rights and options.