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COVID-19: short guide to avoid contamination in your home.

COVID-19: short guide to avoid contamination in your home.
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A few weeks ago, getting out of our house was totally normal. The outside world was not scary! Few people were really thinking of germs, bacteria and viruses in the air. 

But today, a simple stroll in the outside world makes us aware of the gestures and objects that can transmit diseases. We are in the COVID-19 outbreak and when we dare to go out, we are a bit nervous when we return home. Where to put the clothes we wore outside? What to do with our cell phone? Are foods bought at the grocery store contamined?

When asked "How do we manage our comings and goings to keep our homes safe?" ", Marc-André Langlois, a virologist and professor at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Ottawa, replied to La Presse:

  “Pathogens have to stay at the door. We must establish an action plan to limit contamination of our homes as much as possible. "

So we need to reflect on many of our old reflexes. We know that hands are the main conductors of COVID-19 contamination. They must therefore be washed often and conscientiously, with soap and for at least 20 seconds. 

The importance of keeping social isolation and distancing is also stressed, with the aim of reducing the risk of contagion.

It appears that the virus spreads through contaminated objects. When we go out, we might risk carrying the virus on us or on what we bring into the house.

How to reduce the risks?

The first thing to do is to clean the surfaces that are most likely to have been contaminated, such as door handles, furniture, remote controls, telephones, video game controllers, and so on. 

According to Christian Baron, professor in the biochemistry department of the University of Montreal, you should not obsessively sterilize, but it is good to be a little more diligent than usual, under the current circumstances.

Establish a decontamination zone

"If you come in from outside with contaminated hands and clothes, you risk spreading the virus around the house. After a certain limit, everything must be "clean", explains, Dr. Marc-André Langlois.

So we need a "transition zone" in the entrance, where one must leave the outside bags such as backpack, handbag and  grocery bags.

The same idea applies also for shoes, keys, coats, etc. If you have to go to more riskier places, or your clothes might have been in contact with potentially contaminated objects and surfaces, you must remove them as soon as we enter the house and wash them with ordinary laundry detergent, according to Dr. Langlois. The doctor also suggests leaving a laundry basket in the entrance.

Then, wash your hands with a hydroalcoholic solution at 60% or more, before circulating in the rest of the house or apartment. Bottles of hand sanitizer can be left in certain strategic places, such as near the washing machine and the entrance. 

According to a study published by the New England Journal of Medicine, COVID-19 virus survives 48 to 72 hours on plastic and stainless steel and 24 hours on cardboard. Many variables influence the disintegration time of the virus. The more contaminants on a surface, the longer the period.

It is still unknown what the resilience of the virus is on all other surfaces. However, specialists believe that it can survive for several days on different materials, according to Christian Baron who told La Presse magazine.

It is best to disinfect anything that may have been exposed to contaminants or handled by other people. And that includes fruits and vegetables, canned goods, packaged products, bottles of wine or beer and even the bottle of Purell you preciously keep!

If you want to reduce the cleaning and sanitizing time, you can leave non-perishable items in the decontamination area for three days before bringing them into the rest of the house.

Small electronics; smartphone, tablet and laptop

Phones carry an impressive number of bacteria and possibly viruses at all times. (Even more than the restroom!) They often sits on store counters before landing on the bedside table. Our fingers will have touched them hundreds of times in the meantime!

Sterilize the devices for 20 or 30 seconds when you get home. Manufacturers like Apple and Samsung suggest using Clorox or Lysol disinfectant wipes or a soft, lint-free cloth sprayed with 70% isopropyl alcohol.

Do not use bleach or abrasive cleaners and do not spray disinfectants directly on the device!

If there is a shortage of these cleaners, you can turn to a damp cloth with a little soap. Same logic for all the objects which one could have handled with infected hands and which one carries everywhere in the house, like your glasses!

Soap, soap and more soap!

To wash clothes, ordinary detergent is sufficient. Same with dish soap its just as effective at disinfecting surfaces! Ditto for all-purpose cleaners and usual antibacterial products, according to microbiologists.

Health Canada also recommends a solution made with one part bleach for nine parts water and rubbing alcohol.

"Don't buy specialized soaps, it's useless. I wash my fruits and vegetables in water with a very small amount of dish soap. As it is compatible with consumption, we will not get sick if there is a little left on our food, " warns Marc-André Langlois.

What about vinegar? Soaking grapes and broccoli in vinegar is not ideal. "It is not a disinfectant of choice. Its effectiveness is much less. Soap is the key!" explains the virologist.

Hair and body

The virus enters the body through the respiratory tract and the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose and mouth, but not through the skin. However, it is not a bad idea to take a shower before and after outings in places "at risk", according to Christian Baron.

We must also avoid playing in the hair. They should be washed if they have been in contact with contaminated surfaces or hands. People with long hair should keep them tied.

In addition, do not share the same towel with other people.

It is a bad idea to use a scarf as a mask

"Using a scarf [or neck warmer] gives a false sense of security," warns Dr. Baron.  "We carry it around in potentially contaminated places, hang it up at home, then put it back on our face and readjust it when we go out. We end up with the virus in the nose. "

Regarding gloves

According to the WHO, washing your hands regularly protects better against COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves, which can be contaminated and worn on the face. It is best to leave them to healthcare professionals and keep gloves and mittens in the hallway or washing machine.

Source: La Presse · Photo Credit: Adobe Stock

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