A A key element in combating the COVID-19 pandemic is preventing infection of as many new people as possible.
This is especially important at this time, because if you don't control the growth in the rate of new infections, capacity could be exceeded of the medical system to treat them.
AND one of the objectives of prevention is to "flatten the epidemic curve", which essentially means slowing the growth of new infections right now, so that it does not spread over time.
This is the reason why companies are asking their employees to work from home and governments are enacting policies that support social distancing social.
In In essence, public health wants to promote some measures to reduce the infections that could occur in the coming weeks or at some point in the future.
Preventing the spread of infections over time helps for a few reasons:
- decreases the risk of medical services being overwhelmed.
- Gives time to adapt to better deal with the problem.
- Aid health care clinics and hospitals to use the resources available to those most in need.
- Offers time to manufacture and deliver more of the items they will need for the treatment.
- Means that most cases will occur in the future when there are better treatments available.
The goal of flattening the curve is not to stop all infections. For now, it is about reducing new cases because, otherwise, the health system would be at greater risk of not being able to keep up in the coming weeks.
Social distancing is a way to flatten the curve, but whatever action each of us takes to avoid getting sick or that others become infected, will help the medical system to attend to the most needy people.
Why washing your hands is so helpful.
Yeah you could use something to reduce the chances of contracting the viruses that cause respiratory infections, would you use it?
The good news is that there is. They are soap and water.
Therefore, I am going to tell you scientific reasons why washing hands with soap is essential to interrupt the spread of COVID-19 and the best washing techniques.
But let's go in parts: a virus like SARS-CoV-2 (which causes the coronavirus) and those that cause the common cold and flu, are spread through respiratory droplets emanated by an infected person when cough or sneeze.
These droplets end up on nearby surfaces or people. and, depending on the type of virus and the surface, it will survive for a longer or shorter time.
Just to give you a fact. Preliminary research published in the New England Journal of Medicine (March 17, 2020), suggests that SARS-CoV-2 survives longer on steel and plastic (up to 2-3 days) compared to cardboard or copper (less of a day). Did you imagine?
When can everything get complicated? the moment you touch an infected surface.
If the virus sticks to your hands it can be transferred to mucous membranes, and those are the most direct areas for the virus to enter to the respiratory system, multiply and cause the symptoms of colds and flu.
Therefore, it is also important not to touch your face. It sounds easy in theory but it is very difficult in practice.
So much so that a study carried out by a group of medical students concluded that most people touch their face, without being aware of it, an average of 23 times PER HOUR!
In another study that measured only touches to the mouth, nose and eyes, the average was almost 16 per hour.
And how is it so hard to stop that behavior? subconsciously, washing hands with soap and water is a preventative action that it will protect you and people close to you.
What does science say about washing your hands? hands to avoid viruses?
I want to share with you two scientific proofs about how frequent hand washing prevents viruses and diseases.
The first was called "Operation Stop Cough."
Operation Stop Cough
In 2001, Scientific American published an article called “Navy recruits wash their hands of coughs and colds”.
It all started when the military discovered that many new recruits developed some form of cough or cough-like illness the flu in the first months of his training.
Turns out the new recruits lived in dormitories. common, and when you got infected, you increased your risk of spreading the disease. spread among those who lived and worked nearby.
"Operation Stop Cough" began in 1996, when an Army base in Illinois made an effort to see if it would encourage certain behaviors could reduce colds and flu.
Scientific American revealed: "As part of the program, commanding officers instructed recruits to wash their hands at least five times a day. To facilitate this task, the navy installed liquid soap dispensers at all sinks and allowed wet sinks will pass inspection. Additionally, instructors perforation received monthly education from preventive medicine staff about the importance of hand washing.
In 2001, the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (August 2001), published an article titled “Handwashing and Diseases infections among young adults in military training”, where he showed the results:
- There was 45% reduction in total sick outpatient visits respiratory after the implementation of the program. This meant, from from a public health perspective, that all recruits benefited from the initiative; that is, the program itself flattened the curve.
- those who washed their hands frequently reported fewer episodes of illness breaths compared to those who did so less frequently.
- Yeah Although the program improved the results of all the recruits, the people who the more they washed their hands they were the most benefited.
- Adhere The program was a challenge for many of the recruits, especially in the military training context with time constraints.
This last finding was not unexpected, since converting new behaviors into habits requires effort, time, concentration and job.
PRIMIT educational program
It consisted of educating through a web page to more than 16,000 UK households about the importance of washing hands with frequently to prevent the spread of colds and flu.
It was performed during cold seasons and flu from January 2011 to March 2013.
Key points from this study were summed up by Science Daily:
- Taking the PRIMIT course reduced the risk of contracting and transmit respiratory tract infections to other members of the household.
- They were reflected between 10-15% less than doctor visits and antibiotic prescriptions.
- 51% of the participants informed the least one respiratory infection compared to about 6 in 10 (59%) of the group that did not take the online course.
- The risk of contracting a disease Influenza-like was approximately 20% lower in the PRIMIT group.
- Education did not prevent all infections, but significantly flattened the curve.
Our conclusion: if we want to change the chances of viral prevention in our favor, wash our hands more than 5 times a day is one way to do it.
Why does hand washing reduce viral infections?
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officially recommend washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water during at least 20 seconds, especially when visibly dirty, then before going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
Also, use hand sanitizers only as backup, when soap cannot be used.
Why does washing your hands work more than just using hand sanitizers?
The short story is that a good soap kills many types of viruses, including coronaviruses.
But a word of warning: it kills them only if they're exposed to the soap long enough.
How much is enough? About 20 seconds because the soap will put increasing pressure on the fatty membranes of the virus, eventually pulling it apart, killing the virus.
And just like when you wash the dishes, that "adhesion and washing effect" gives a certain degree of protection due to the fact that the outer membranes of coronaviruses and cold and flu viruses They are made of fatty substances.
Remember that water alone is not enough to eliminate the virus because the interaction between the virus and the skin is too strong.
If you want a more detailed explanation, I recommend the video "Hand Hygiene" from the World Health Organization. it will take you only 5 minutes to see it.
What is the correct way to do it?
First, you should know that to create a new habit, the behavior to change must be measurable.
That's why saying "wash your hands often" doesn't will do, because it is imprecise.
Experts recommend doing it 5 to 6 times a day. It is not for nothing that "Operation Stop Cough" selected 5 times a day as valid criteria.
- From From the biohaking perspective, a useful first step is to decide how many times per day you will wash your hands and then follow it.
- From From a habit perspective, you should anchor some of these 5 times with other actions you already do, such as every time you eat or drink.
And if you have small children at home, the visit video to “Henry the Hand Champion” Dishwashing School might be a helpful resource.
I do not want to end without mentioning the importance of use your time and energy wisely.
These are limited resources that, in current circumstances, must be used with awareness and purpose.
I mention it to you because another option to interrupt the Viral transmission from surfaces to our hands and face is to disinfect everything we can touch, before we touch it.
But just as with facial touch, much of it of our contact with things is subconscious.
Therefore, it will require our effort, time, concentration and work.
Let's be responsible!
*To learn more about what it means to flatten the curve, I recommend reading National Public Radio's “The Crushing Curve of a Pandemic: Why Staying Home Now Can Save Lives.”[evolution_subscription_box]