COVID-19 – hygiene 101

April 22, 2020 by Lisa Bywaters


OK – so we’ve been in this weird state of isolation for a while now and we may be getting a bit lax in our habits. Or we’re going overboard in the cleaning, disinfecting and washing.

So it’s timely to revisit some of the key points about hygiene to protect yourself and help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Washing your hands

We need to wash our hands with soap and water more frequently than we did before the pandemic. And we need to do it for at least 20 seconds. So no more splashing a bit of water around and considering the job done. Time yourself washing your hands a few times – 20 seconds is surprisingly long! A rough guide is the length of time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice.

You also need to be thorough – so use plenty of soap, lather up and wash your hands front and back, between your fingers, under the nails. And don’t forget to dry them properly. Read clean hands protect against infection from WHO for more info.

So when should you wash your hands? Well there are some really obvious times we should all have been washing our hands before the virus appeared on the scene – so continue washing your hands:

  • after you go to the toilet
  • after blowing your nose, sneezing or coughing
  • after touching or being in contact with someone who’s sick
  • before and after you eat
  • when preparing food
  • when handling rubbish
  • when your hands are visibly dirty
  • when dealing with your pets or other animals (patting, feeding, dealing with their poo or litter trays).

Other times you should be washing your hands because of COVID-19:

  • after going out in public – for example the shops, public transport, petrol station, chemist, workplace, childcare centre, healthcare setting etc. Basically any place where you’re touching things that other people may have touched or breathed on.
  • before and after you unpack your groceries. Read our blog about grocery shopping for more info about how you can look after yourself and your family and still get the groceries you need.

Hand sanitisers

If you can find them, hand sanitisers are really helpful when you don’t have access to soap and water. Be aware that they need to be at least 70% alcohol to be effective against COVID-19. Hand sanitisers are really useful for when you’re at the shops or using public transport and you can’t whip out the soap and water. Compound Interest has a really good article explaining how hand sanitisers protect against infections.  Also check out our blog about DIY hand sanitisers.

Avoid touching your face

We touch our faces a lot…more often than we actually realise. The problem is our faces include eyes, noses and mouths – perfect places for viruses and other germs to enter our bodies. So it’s really important, especially when we’re out in public or we’re around other people, to avoid touching our faces.

Sneezing, coughing and blowing your nose

If you need to sneeze or cough (for whatever reason – allergy, virus, sun in your eyes) do it into your elbow or a tissue, not your hand. If you use a tissue throw it in the bin. And regardless of whether you use your elbow or a tissue, wash your hands or use hand sanitiser immediately.

If you’re blowing your nose it’s best to use a tissue rather than a hanky. That way you can throw it away, rather than carrying a dirty hanky in your pocket or bag, contaminating your hands every time you touch it. And obviously wash your hands after you blow your nose.

Seriously – I’m exhausted just reading this!

If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by all of this you’re not alone; I still can’t stop touching my face! But we get it – when you have a condition that often has you waking up exhausted or you have fatigue that weighs you down throughout your day, you want to take shortcuts when you can, often with the “simple” things.

But because we’re living through a pandemic we need to be vigilant when it comes to our hygiene (see above points). If you’re really just too tired/exhausted/knackered/worried to go out – ask for help. From your family, friends, neighbours…the people close to you want to help if they can. We just need to ask them for it.

Masks and gloves

At this stage in Australia we’re being advised to only wear masks or gloves if we have COVID-19 or we’re caring for a person with the virus.

Stay clean, stay (physically) distant and stay safe

The best thing we can do to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is practise good hygiene (as we’ve listed here), continue physical distancing measures and follow the instructions of the health department (both Federal and your state/territory).

This will pass, but it’ll take some time. So we need to be patient, be informed and be kind.

Contact our free national Help Line

Our nurses are available weekdays between 9am-5pm to take your calls (1800 263 265), emails ( or messages via Messenger. So if you have questions about things like COVID-19, your musculoskeletal condition, treatment options, telehealthmanaging your pain or accessing services – contact them today.

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