The coronavirus has affected everyone across the globe. One focal point in conversations about this pandemic is personal hygiene and how that impacts the spread of COVID-19. The experts at Avail Dermatology are here to shed some light on the topic of skin hygiene in the age of coronavirus.
The Proper Way to Wash Your Hands
Washing your hands is the most effective way to prevent the spread of coronavirus, but only if you do it right. Here’s a step by step guide!
- Turn on the sink and soak your hands. It doesn’t matter if the water is warm or cold, it’s your preference.
- Apply soap.
- Lather! The trick here is to make sure you cover all parts of your hands. So, not just the palms, but between your fingers, on the back of your hands, and underneath your fingernails too.
- Another trick of the trade: lather for at least 20 seconds. This ensures all germs and bacteria on your hands are wiped clean. If you struggle with what exactly 20 seconds looks like, either set a timer or sing the first 20 seconds of your favorite song.
- The last two steps are easy: wash off all the soap and then dry your hands.
If you’re worried about potentially damaging your skin with all of the hand-washing you’ll be doing, there are several proactive steps you can take to protect your skin. Those are washing with warm water, using gentle soaps designed for sensitive skin, and applying good, protective hand lotion, or cream if the irritation is worsening afterward.
Hand washing is not an option in all situations. In an era where a trip to the grocery store may necessitate resanitizing your hands multiple times, it is just not practical to hand wash. The next best option is the use of an effective hand sanitizer. These should contain at least 65% ethanol to be effective. Some unscrupulous manufacturers have tried to substitute other chemicals, typically methanol. This is unreliable, and methanol is toxic both topically or if ingested.
To use the sanitizer effectively, apply liberally, cover the entire surface of both hands, and rub vigorously until the sanitizer has completely dried. It is the evaporation process that actually kills germs, so allowing the sanitizer to dry completely is essential.
Hand sanitizers can be irritating, especially if the skin is already compromised, though it is generally less damaging than hand washing. Severe hand irritation (“hand dermatitis”) can actually increase the risk of skin infection. If your hands have become seriously irritated, you may need medical treatment. Contact Avail Dermatology if you are struggling with hand dermatitis.
What Happens When I Touch My Face?
The coronavirus spreads extremely quickly, which is what makes it so dangerous. But what does that process look like? Usually, someone who has the virus may cough or sneeze, which then spreads germs by pathogens from that cough or sneeze landing on people or items nearby. When that happens, the disease can potentially stay on that object for up to several days, depending on the object’s material and conditions.
If you happen to touch those potentially infected items, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll contract the virus right away. But, if you don’t wash your hands before you touch your face, you’re giving the coronavirus a front door to your body.
That’s why experts everywhere strongly recommend you avoid touching your face at all costs. Not only is it better for you for skincare reasons (such as reducing the amount of oil on your face), it also prevents the coronavirus from entering your body. It’s difficult to do this, as we all are used to touching our faces unconsciously hundreds of times a day.
One additional strategy is to wear a mask when in a high-risk environment. The mask prevents direct contact with the vulnerable nose/mouth region and is a constant reminder not to be touching our face. In very high-risk situations, with a high density of people in close proximity, wearing eye protection may further help protect you from infection, and as a mask, is a deterrent to touching our eyes, another potential route of infection.
How Long Will Bacteria Stay on My Skin?
Unfortunately, it’s not clear how long the coronavirus lives on a surface or if it lives longer on the skin than most viruses. Regardless, you can never be too careful as scientists and doctors work together to understand more about this disease.
Follow our steps above for washing your hands and avoid touching your face, and you will help slow the spread of the disease and keep it away from you and your family.
Avail Dermatology is here for any of your skincare needs. If you have any further questions about skin hygiene in the age of coronavirus or want to speak to our staff, click here to reach out or give us a call at 770-929-9033. Click here to learn more about our telemedicine efforts!