FAQs: Does hair, debit card etc carry coronavirus ?

FAQs on carrying of coronavirus by hair, credit card, shoes, bangles, contact lenses, nails etc.

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New Delhi: Last month, India went into a complete lockdown as the Covid-19 threat grew. Now, the government eased restrictions in a few sectors and all ministry offices to bring people back to work and get the economy moving.

Eventually, the majority of us will have to go back to our daily jobs while the coronavirus remains active. Naturally, this brings up a lot of questions on how to avoid being infected once we begin stepping outdoors regularly, taking public transport, interacting with people, and so on.

Here are some FAQs

What we already know 

The foremost rule, they said, remains the same — avoid touching your face, including the eyes, nose and mouth, and maintain hand hygiene i.e., keep washing them properly and sanitising. We know that infection spreads from touching fomites, surfaces that carry infectious agents and/or viruses, and then touching the face or touching another person. Hence, it is important to follow these few steps to prevent spread of infection.

What experts say

How can you be careful of not carrying viruses from the workplace?

One should clean their bag with disinfectant solution or disinfectant wipes, says Dr Vikas Maurya, director and head, Department of Pulmonology, Fortis Hospital, Shalimar Bagh, Delhi.

Wipes are expensive and also in high demand but experts suggest repeated use of alcoholic hand-sanitisers or regular hand-washing as the only technique instead of depending on home-made solutions.

Dr Maurya also advises washing your face and hands with soap before leaving office. While hand sanitisers are for quick cleaning, nothing beats a proper hand wash with your regular soap or hand wash.

Should I take a bath after reaching home?

One should always take a shower after reaching home, said Dr Maurya. And yes, your regular detergent used for washing clothes is enough to kill the virus, if at all they are on your clothes.

He also said one must enter the house without touching any surface like the door, bell, walls and other things. “Let the gate or door be opened for you by the family person,” he said.

If you are living alone, you should ensure you don’t touch any infected surfaces. So, it is always important to clean the things that you would touch the most with disinfectant, like door bell switches and knobs.

Do my shoes carry viruses?

Yes, shoes do carry a lot of viruses and bacteria along with dirt on the soles like any other surfaces, said Dr Manisha Arora, senior consultant, internal medicine, Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute.

“But again it entirely depends upon being in an area where there are chances of the presence of an infected person and (their) droplets on the floor.

“However, in case of shoes, chances of causing infections are less because there is a lesser possibility that a person will touch her or his face after touching shoes considering them being dirty already. Still precautions must (be) followed,” he said.

Dr Arora added that one must remove shoes outside your house and keep them under sunlight or wash them with soap water if they are washable. He also says one must try and use only one set of shoes for going out.

“Never touch any body part after wearing or removing your shoes. Sanitise your hands after wearing or removing your shoes,” he added.

Do your bangles, watch and other accessories need to be washed?

Yes. The basic idea is that any foreign body may carry the virus as it settles down on surfaces.

Hence experts say they need to be washed or wiped down with disinfectant. Better yet, experts advise avoiding accessories like bangles, anklets, wrist watches, earrings etc till the virus is no longer a threat to the body’s immunity.

Can contact lenses carry viruses?

Dr Arora said the eyes are one of the most sensitive parts of the body from which viruses can easily enter, and so lenses should be avoided as much as possible.

“(Contact lenses) are already supposed to be carried with much care, including cleaning them timely. There are also chances that you may touch your eyes all of a sudden without sanitising your hands if there is itching in your eyes or to adjust contact lenses,” Dr Arora said, adding that one should stop wearing them for cosmetic purposes.

“Wear glasses instead as there is no chance to touch the inner area of your eyes,” the doctor said.

Do our hair and nails increase the chance of carrying viruses?

While the possibility cannot be denied completely as many things about the virus are still under study, one should be careful.

“Nails should be cut as it is important to maintain hand hygiene. Always clean them with hot water and soap or shampoo once you are back from the workplace, hospital or any venture outside home which involves people around you,” said Dr Manoj B. Jais, director-professor, microbiology department, Lady Hardinge Hospital.

The same also applies to hair.

“However, one should not be over-stressed about contamination and create paranoia. Always remember to follow social distancing which is the only solution to all our worries. It reduces the chances of catching the virus phenomenally,” he said.

How do you prevent catching infections at the workplace?

Clean your hands with soap every one-two hours or use alcohol-based hand sanitiser that contains at least 60 per cent alcohol.

“Avoid handshakes. One can follow other methods to greet each other like folding hands or verbal greetings. Wherever possible, avoid direct contact with each other. Place chairs apart, at least 1-2 meter (about 3 feet) away from each other,” Dr Maurya said.

Experts also said that one must avoid close contact with people who show symptoms of sickness. If you are sick, inform your human resource officer immediately.

And yes, clean and disinfect frequently-touched surfaces and objects like stationary, laptops, desk, mobile phones and other things.

It is also important to avoid eating in a group and don’t share each other’s objects like stationary.

Should you attend group meetings?

The ideal way to avoid infections is to maintain social distancing, that is stay at least 1-2 meters (about 3 feet) away from other people.

Dr Maurya said also said one should avoid meeting in groups.

“If it is unavoidable, it is necessary then to maintain distance during the meeting. It is advisable to use meeting based video applications or programs to conduct online meetings instead of sitting together,” he added.

Is it better to wear gloves than washing hands?

No. Hand washing is the best way to avoid transmission.

The impact of wearing gloves as a hand hygiene technique has not been definitively established, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), since published studies have yielded contradictory results.

“Prolonged use of gloves for contact precautions in the absence of considering the need to perform hand hygiene can result in the transmission of germs,” WHO has warned.

WHO, in collaboration with Public Health England (PHE), department of Health in England, has also not recommended people wear gloves or face masks to protect themselves. “PHE is not recommending the use of gloves as a protective measure against COVID-19 for the general public,” a media report quoted PHE spokesperson.

“People concerned about the transmission of infectious diseases should prioritise good personal, respiratory and hand hygiene,” it said.

What do we do when using our credit/debit cards while shopping?

Avoid making payment through cards and cash by using digital payments. If you have to do it, wipe down the credit/debit card with alcohol-based sanitisers before putting it back in your wallet.

What do you when you enter a car by touching the handle and other surfaces?

Keep a bottle of alcohol-based sanitiser in the car. As soon as you sit inside, before touching anything, rub sanitiser properly on your hands.