Getting ill is inevitable. No matter how hard we try to avoid people, eat well and put in place our best practice, everyone is going to catch a bug or cold at some point. In a time where there are novel infections and antibiotic resistant bacteria, it is vital to keep yourself protected and safe. With the novel coronavirus epidemic in Asia, public health and hygiene have been brought to the fore of the general public's consciousness. In this guide, we aim to pass on basic hygiene and contamination prevention advice from governing bodies and the World Health Organisation which apply to viral and bacterial infections in a more general sense.
It is true that particularly in winter months the prevalence of colds and influenza rises and vulnerable individuals experience a weakening of their immune system. However, there are steps you can take to avoid viral and bacterial infections which are medically encouraged and advised worldwide.
Wash hands, wrists and arms when necessary
Using soap, hot water and finishing off with an alcohol gel or disinfectant is a good way to ensure any contact with contaminated surfaces (kitchen tops, public transport) eliminates bacteria or viruses. Washing your hands for 10-30 seconds will suffice, and ensure hands are dryed with a hand-dryer or clean handcloth.
Maintain distance and limit contact with ill people
Many viruses and some bacteria are capable of transmission through the air, known as airborne infection. Being within a metre or less of an infected individual can allow transmission through water droplets and vapour, particularly through breath, sneezing or coughing. Limiting close contact with individuals helps to prevent your own illness and the further transmission to other healthy individuals.
Limit eye, mouth and facial touching
It is vital to ensure you limit the amount of touching of vulnerable areas (eyes, mouth, face and ears) in between washing your hands. These mucous membranes are highly susceptible to transmission of bacteria and viruses which may have come in contact with your hands. Even something as simple as scratching your ear can allow the transmission of bacteria or viruses through your ear canal through to the throat.
Encourage hygiene and ‘hands free’ technology where possible
Encouraging others and young children to uptake personal hygiene early on is vital to preventing the spread of illnesses. This can be facilitated well with the reduction of transmission to public surfaces by using technology which utilise hands free features – phones which can answer to voice, motion sensor bins, etc. By no means should you quarantine yourself completely when ill (unless instructed by a doctor), but in general good common sense can help reduce the spread to other people – by, for example, sharing food and cutlery.
If you or anyone you know experience symptoms or illness, it is good practice to either speak to a doctor over the phone or have an appointment to review your symptoms. Remember, pharmacists can often treat minor ailments and symptoms of most colds and viruses. If you do believe you require further medical attention and do not wish to risk public exposure, there are numbers like 111 which can provide concise, confidential medical advice. In undertaking these steps, we hope to pass on knowledge and good health to the general public and those wishing to prevent illness in greater society.