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Your health is in YOUR hands

You’ve got to hand it to some people – a bar of soap. Senior writer Lara Pickford-Gordon writes on why we must maintain hygienic practices, now and always.

The new coronavirus, SAR CoV-2, causing Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) has forced us to pay attention to our hygienic practices. Personal responsibility in safeguarding one’s health and not compromising the health of others has been emphasised in responding to this pandemic.

‘Wash your hands’ has become a mantra today but the fact is proper hand washing is not second nature to many people. How many of us scrub our hands for 20 seconds? What about precautions when coughing and sneezing? The “farmer’s blow”—a blowing of the nose accomplished by plugging one nostril and blowing forcefully out of the other—has not been eliminated.  Spitting and urinating in public are not uncommon.

Human skin has two major groups of microorganisms: resident flora—that is always present on the skin—and transient flora—bacteria, fungi, viruses—that get on the skin by contact with people and objects. Washing hands is vital in removing the transient flora that may transmit disease.

General Practitioner Dr Randolph Phillips said there is, generally, a slack attitude toward hand washing, and many people unconsciously touch their face and mouth. He reiterated washing hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand cleansers (at least 60 per cent alcohol), when water is unavailable, can cleanse your hands of the transient bacteria.

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said very few people use soap to wash their hands although it is effective in removing germs.

The CDC ( states that the estimated global rate of handwashing, after the toilet use, was 19 per cent. Handwashing can prevent about 30 per cent of diarrhea-related sicknesses and about 20 per cent of respiratory infections (e.g., colds).  “Reducing the number of these infections by washing hands frequently helps prevent the overuse of antibiotics—the single most important factor leading to antibiotic resistance around the world,” the CDC said.

Dr Phillips said, in addition to washing hands, people should boost their immune system. He suggested—RED: Rest, Exercise and Diet.

The diet must include fresh fruit and vegetables, inclusive of broccoli and cauliflower, contain natural vitamins and minerals; cut down on the carbohydrates.  Fruits and vegetables may not be inexpensive but Dr Phillips retorted “the cost of getting sick: staying home five to seven days, emotional trauma to family and friends, medications… may be greater.”

Dr Phillips said persons who fall ill and develop symptoms of an upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) need to rest, “self-isolate”, take Paracetamol regularly, observe their symptoms for progression and call a health centre, if symptoms do indeed progress. Individuals with diabetes, respiratory diseases and hypertension need to “err on the side of caution” and seek medical attention early.

Persons, who travelled overseas in the last 14 days, and become ill with symptoms of URTI (coughing, fever, etc.) should see their doctor, at once.

Surgical masks can prevent infected people from infecting others. Dr Phillips said persons without symptoms of a URTI, may feel “a level of comfort” but social distancing and staying three feet/1 metre apart from persons should be implemented.

Dr Phillips commented that generally too many people spit and urinate all over our country. There is no accountability for these habits, so people continue, without penalty. He said a ban on spitting in public was introduced many years ago to prevent the spread of pulmonary tuberculosis.

He criticised the attitude displayed by some citizens who put responsibility for their well-being on others. “God gave everybody free will and we need to exercise it more. Don’t blame government for the errors you make,” Dr Phillips said. Researchers are still trying to understand the COVID-19 disease and a vaccine is not yet available.

What is literally in our hands is our health—keep our hands clean and implement social distancing as much as possible: keep a clean scene.