Safe at Home

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The governor of Texas, where I live, has relaxed some stay-at-home and social distancing restrictions in order to get the economy going again. Other states are also loosening restrictions. Nevertheless, the risk and danger of getting COVID-19 still remains and it makes sense to continue to stay at home as much as possible, especially if you have a chronic condition or are age 60 or older. We have been doing this for more than 2 months now, so we probably feel like old hands at it. We may also be getting tired of it and are perhaps less diligent than we were at the beginning. So here are some reminders.

Hand washing is still the most important thing we can do to protect ourselves from the Coronavirus. Wash your hands for 20 seconds, or about as long as it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice. Click on this link to see a video of the WHO technique for washing hands. Wash your hands before you start to cook. Wash your hands again if you touch raw meat or eggs while preparing your meal and if you get raw batter on your hands. If you forget to wash your hands and open the refrigerator or oven, the bacteria transfers to the refrigerator or oven handle. Wash your hands after you finish cooking and before you eat.

Sponges

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Sponges can harbor bacteria. Microwaving, boiling and putting the sponges in the dishwasher does not kill the bacteria. Plan to use a new sponge every week. I prefer to use a dish rag that I toss into the hamper at the end of the day, and get a fresh one out in the morning. Cutting boards and the sink both harbor bacteria and should be scrubbed with a cleaning product containing bleach. You can make your own by mixing a tablespoon of bleach in a gallon of water. Wipe down your countertops and the faucet handles with the same solution at least once a day. If you use a spray cleaner, spray thoroughly and let it sit for a few minutes before wiping. Don’t add bleach to a store-bought cleaning product; mixing bleach with a citrus product can be harmful to you and your pets. Disinfectant wipes are another option, but Chlorox or Lysol wipes have not been available for months. To make your own wipes, cut a roll of good quality paper towels in half crosswise with an electric knife. Put the half roll in a round container with a lid. Mix 1 cup of boiling water and 3 tablespoons of bleach. Pour over the towels. Cover and let stand 20 minutes. Remove the cardboard from the center. The wipes can be used to sanitize not only your counters, but light switches, door knobs, faucet handles, toilet handles, stove knobs, washing machine and dryer knobs, and any other high touch surface. Do not use it on touch screens or cellphones though. The alcohol wipes used to clean glasses are safer for these items.

Other times to wash your hands are after bringing groceries into the house, after bringing the newspaper or mail into the house, after handling pets, after feeding the birds, and of course after coughing or sneezing. My favorite soft soap has disappeared from the shelves, including the online shelves. Hopefully I can find a substitute but I may have to use bar soap instead. After all that hand washing, your hands are sure to become dry and irritated, so don’t forget to use hand cream.

I recently learned that when you flush the toilet with the lid up, bacteria sprays 6 feet out. It can land on your toothbrush and towels. Yeah, that’s gross! So always flush the toilet with the lid closed! Even if you protect your towels from toilet spray, damp towels can harbor bacteria, so change the towels every three or four days. Be sure to wash them in hot water and make sure they get thoroughly dry in the dryer.

As long as we’re talking safety, check your home to make sure there are no tripping hazards that might cause a fall that sends you to the emergency room. Sheltering in place provides spare time to declutter your house. Make sure you have plenty of space to walk around. Wear good supportive shoes at home; slippers and flip flops may increase your risk for falls. Rugs should have anti-slipping pads. Electric cords should not lay across any walkways. Check to make sure the cords are not frayed, which is a fire hazard. Use handrails for all staircases. Put items that you use frequently in the kitchen within easy reach, not on a high shelf. Turn on a light if you have to get up during the night so you can see where you are going. Have your air conditioner serviced; seniors are at higher risk of adverse effects due to high temperatures.

We’ve heard it many times before: We are all in this together. So take precautions to safely make it through this pandemic.

Chris Alexander

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