In this series of blogs I’m providing practical tips on how to follow Government advice and to answer frequently asked questions. At the time of writing, new measures have been imposed to control the spread of COVID-19. No doubt more detail will follow.
Now we are having to stay at home together, I have been asked about what to do about the fact that some in the household may already be infected. How do we try to reduce risks?
I have written about keeping the virus out of the house by washing our hands immediately on entry and that is still very important.
However, many people are now asking about how to protect themselves from contamination inside the home.
The important thing to keep remembering is the routes of transmission or Journey of the Germ. These are either direct transmission from droplets or from infected people’s body secretions getting onto hands and on to hand contact surfaces (coughs, sneezes, dirty tissues, dirty hands from bad habits e.g. nose picking).
Crank up the hygiene more!
Whilst everyone in the household may still be well, it still pays for everyone to consider that they may be infected and act accordingly, and stop any unhygienic habits. If anyone becomes ill, then they need to be isolated if possible in their own room to protect the others.
In the house, wash hands more frequently to fight the journey of the germ – these are the key moments!
- When you come in (virus picked up outside could come to your home)
- Before you go out (because you may touch things other people could touch such as carpark buttons, petrol pumps etc)
- After going to the toilet (faeces to hands to surfaces to others)
- After blowing your nose or touching your nose (nose to hands to surfaces to others)
- Before putting contact lenses in (hand to eye transmission)
- After loading the dishwasher (dirty plates may be contaminated)
- Before emptying the dishwasher or drying washed dishes (dirty hands will contaminate the clean crockery and cutlery)
- After cleaning (hands could get dirty)
- After handling laundry (hands could get dirty)
- Before handling clean laundry (dirty hands could make the clean laundry dirty)
- Before preparing ready-to-eat food (dirty hands could contaminate food which you then eat without cooking)
- After preparing raw food (food safety issue, but still important)
- Before snacking or eating with your fingers (dirty hands could contaminate food or your mouth)
- After unpacking a delivery parcel or shopping (contamination could get on your hands from packaging)
- Before taking drinks or snacks to others in the household (your dirty hands could contaminate glasses or mugs, crockery and cutlery)
- Before and after vaping or smoking (hand to mouth contact)
- After unpacking the outer packaging of a delivery or opening the post
- After handling shopping bags
- After handling money, pens to sign documents when out (better still use your own pen)
- After touching anything that may be contaminated (e.g. the outside door or bell)
These are just suggestions – in every household there may be other times when you need to wash your hands to stop the journey of the germ!
Also see the IFH fact sheet on hand hygiene
Save the sanitiser gel for when you go out – use the wash basin if you can get to it.
Q. How often should I disinfect surfaces in the home?
If you are not sure whether your household is clear of the virus, then it pays to disinfect frequently touched surfaces often. See how to disinfect if you have run out of your normal household sanitiser.
How often depends on how many people are in your household – if it is just you, then really it is just any surfaces you may have touched when you arrive home, plus your phone and handbag handles etc. need cleaning just once when you get in.
If you have a very busy household, then disinfecting high use hand contact surfaces every hour may be a good investment, especially if you know your fellow inhabitants are regular face scratchers!
Q. Why is it important not to touch our face?
One of the routes of transmission is through the eyes, nose and mouth, and it is also the place where the virus may be lying in wait for someone to transfer it to a surface via the hands.
Try to get everyone to be more conscious of not touching their faces. This is because by touching our nose, eyes or mouth we could either transmit the virus to surfaces and then on to others, or transfer it from a hand contact surface to ourselves.
Q. What about social distancing in the house?
In most households, particularly with families, it is not going to be possible to stay away from each other for 2 weeks or at a distance of 2m but you can try to reduce close contact as much as possible if you can.
It seems unfriendly, but if you are sharing the house with other adults, stay apart in your own rooms as much as possible. If you have a garden, then use the space if the weather is good.
I will write in more detail in a separate blog about tips in case you have a vulnerable person in your household. Government advice is here.
Going for supplies? Think ahead!
Try as much as possible not to touch anything when you do have to go out to get supplies. Think ahead before you go out and plan how you can avoid contact with people and hand contact surfaces that may be contaminated. I will be writing in more detail with suggestions on this.
If you go out in the car, open the door and before touching anything in the car, and clean your hands. If you can’t get any gel, use a baby wipe or make-up wipe or even a moistened disposable cloth and rub really well. Leave the wipe on the floor or have a plastic bag for it and collect after 3 days. These alternatives are not guaranteed to remove the virus but they are better than nothing. Still, keep your hands off your face when driving home! WASH your hands again when you get home and again after dealing with shopping.