Practical tips to prevent infection

Dr Ellapen Rapiti, Eastridge

Be practical, have hope but don’t panic.

Don’t fret if you can’t find hand sanitisers or you can’t afford them. Make some soapy water with some Savlon in a spray bottle and carry it with you.

Wash surfaces with soap water to kill the virus and prevent its spread. Do this at home and in the office.

Hand hygiene is the best tool to kill the spread of the coronavirus. Going to the tap to wash one’s hands is not always possible and can be quite costly in our water-scarce country. It is pretty impractical to implement in our townships and squatter camps, where there is no free running water.

Here is a simple solution for everyone. Fill a two-litre ice-cream plastic container with fresh water, add some washing liquid and some Savlon/Dettol and place the container on the kitchen table or office table, with a towel next to it.

Rinse your hands in this water as often as possible or every twenty minutes and dry with a clean towel. This is practical, water-saving and implementable. Change the water daily or twice daily. This method would be useful in winter because we could add hot water, which would encourage people to wash their hands. Apart from cleaning their hands, they could get some warmth. Children, who are so vulnerable will find this fun. We have to make hand hygiene part of our lives for the rest of our lives.

The virus can survive on metal, apparently for five days, so it might be a good idea to wash the taps before closing them. Hands should be washed every 20 minutes, so having a container with soapy water might just be the answer.

Wipe off cellphones, wallets, keyboards, your computer’s mouse and table tops because the virus can stay alive for 12 hours on any surface. Soap water can be used to wash surfaces.

Take proper precautions and don’t panic.

If you can’t find masks, use a scarf. Use anything that will protect you. A recent study from John Hopkins University has found that the virus can be airborne if it attaches to dust particles and aerosol sprays, so wearing a mask might be a good idea, despite what some authorities claim.

Carry a bottle of water. Suppress the urge to cough by drinking sips of water to keep the mouth and throat moist. Cough syrups don’t really work. Gargle the throat with an antiseptic or vinegar water if you have a sore throat to kill the virus and stop its spread.

If you have asthma or hay fever, use your pumps/steroid nasal sprays regularly to stop your cough and sneezing. Over-the-counter flu preparations that contain ephedrine or phenylephrine should not be used for rhinitis/hay fever on a long-term basis.

The flu virus can act as an allergen and trigger asthma and hay fever symptoms. The best way to stop the cough due to asthma is by using a steroid pump, not bottles of cough medicine. Uncontrolled coughing and sneezing can increase the spread of the virus many times over.

Antibiotics do nothing for the flu so stop insisting on them. The flu is caused by a virus. Antibiotics are for bacterial infections, so let’s not abuse antibiotics because of our fear or misconception that they will help with the flu.

There is a strong possibility that using antiretroviral HIV medication could be used to reduce the number of deaths by this virus, but this is in its experimental stages.

If you are fit and healthy it is unlikely that you would die from it, so stop panicking if you are infected with the flu.

Bed rest, analgesics, fruit and fluids, added with a dash of patience is all that is required. Isolation for about 14 days is essential because it is the only way to stop the spread of the virus.

No need for tons of expensive vitamins if you have a good diet of fruits and vegetables.

Not everyone who has the flu is infected with the coronavirus but treat it as such, to prevent its spread because most flu viruses have similar symptoms (fever, sore throat, cough and body pains) so it is hard to say which virus is responsible for the particular flu.

The symptoms of the coronavirus infection, in most cases, are mild and self-limiting, so one can be infected by it and not be aware of it. It is for this reason that isolation is essential to kill the spread of the virus.

We are fighting this pandemic to get the world’s economy back on track.

We don’t want thousands of people to lose their jobs when factories and stores are forced to close down. This is one of the most rapidly spreading viruses to afflict human beings. Even asymptomatic people could be carriers.

Let’s all work together and be positive that we will win this battle and win it soon by following good hygiene, keeping safe distances and acting responsibly.

Dr Rapiti has been a medical doctor in Mitchell’s Plain for 37 years.