There’s no denying that we are living in a time of an unprecedented global pandemic. In this time of coronavirus disease, there are certain emergencies that have now started to increase in frequency unlike ever before, such that sometimes when we are not even aware about how to tackle them in time. Thus, it is important to know what to expect and how to stay alert when grave incidents occur out of the blue.
Now we all know how important hand hygiene is and what are the accepted methods to conquer that. We are repeatedly told to wash our hands with soap and water frequently and if that is not available, then we can use hand sanitizers which are alcohol-based as per the prescribed norm. So far we know several brands that offer a good sanitizer and which ones are the most reliable. Almost every household now has one or more bottles set in the most accessible corners of their homes. Some may even hold it in their pockets or purses for ease of access. However, do we know when to use and when not to use sanitizer? And what happens when these sanitizers enter any of our body orifices or get in our eyes by chance? Are we sure what to do next?
Let me explain with a small example of how important this is. This incident actually occurred in a one of the homes. A 7 year old child accidentally got some of the sanitizer in his eye. Fortunately, his mother was an ophthalmologist, so she knew exactly what could be done to tackle this situation. She started to do the necessary things and the next day her son was absolutely fine. But what if tomorrow you or your family members are put in such a situation. Would you know what to do immediately? Are you well equipped to do it if at all such a condition occurred in your household?
So basically, this mother took the boy to the bathroom and immediately turned on the shower with his eyes open beneath it for the next 20 minutes. This step ensures that the chemical composition of the sanitizer has completely been rinsed of the eyes. Now if you do not have a shower in your house, then you can take make the child or the adult whoever has gotten the sanitizer in his/her eyes to lie at the edge of the bed with is head facing towards the ceiling and you can place the bucket full of water beside the bed and using a mug you can rinse the eyes with excess water being collected in another bucket beneath the head for the next 20 minutes, not a minute more, not a minute less.
This can help to achieve the same result and you can rinse off the sanitizer completely from the eyes. The next step would be to rest the eyes and take the child or the person to the nearest ophthalmologist to get the eyes checked. Chemicals such as sanitizers, deodorants, bug sprays have potential irritants in them which if enter the eyes, accidentally or otherwise, can be extremely dangerous and can result in corneal abrasion and even loss of eyesight, partially or fully. Thus, timely measures can really save one from catastrophic consequences.
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Face masks have found a new place in each household nowadays. This has resulted in each house having sizable number of masks, both used and unused. Now, you have to be smart to understand how necessary it is to throw away the used ones if they are of the disposable types and if not disposable, then they need to be washed right away as soon as the use done. Besides, the basics of face mask usage have been enumerated several times by various local and international medical bodies.
However, it is important to know when to and when not to use a mask. For example, when it is extremely hot outside and you are wearing a mask, there is a good chance that while breathing through it, it can prevent cool air to reach your lungs making your lungs work a little bit harder to process the air. This will, thus, end up heating up your entire body if continued for prolonged periods. Similarly, while exercising while wearing a face mask, a person can feel shortness of breath while breathing heavily through a mask. This can cause a person to pass out at home or public places due to low levels of oxygen in the body.
In any case, if a person does faint due to heat or exhaustion while wearing the masks, it is important to perform the following steps to help the said person on an immediate basis till further help arrives. Do these as follows-
- Remove the face mask carefully without touching it’s outer side and discard it or put it in a plastic bag or box.
- Remove the person from the area of heat to a relatively cooler zone. If the area of passing out is already cool, make sure there’s good ventilation and no crowding around the victim. Avoid any panic.
- Elevate the legs of the person by placing them on a chair or anything higher. This helps to better the blood flow to the upper portion of the body, especially the brain.
- Loosen up all tight clothing that the person may be wearing like tie, belt, etc in order to give better circulation.
- Apply cool towels or sprinkle some water on the person to mellow down his body temperature in the hot climate.
- If the person has regained consciousness, administer plenty of fluids like water, ORS, or even a sports drink to hydrate the body.
There’s a good evidence that after doing all these above steps, the person will certainly feel better and in a good number of cases will not require further interventions.
Hence, it is important to note that you need to wear good fitting masks, cover your mouth and nose well and simultaneously know when and how to remove them. Do not reuse any masks unless they’re cleaned and dispose the single use ones off in safe places where it will not be touched again. Do not wear on your chin or below the nose, it serves not purpose as an accessory and in facts spreads the disease more as it, too, is a fomite. Do not wear them while exercising or performing heavy duty activities. Also, restrict your heat exposure while wearing masks. This can go a long way to prevent any adverse outcomes.
I am not sure if people understand that usage of any kind of gloves, medical or otherwise, will not do much to protect a person during these pandemic times. Now, you may ask how? But, this goes a long way back. There is something called ‘fomites’ which in medical language means nothing but surfaces on which any a microbe can settle down and serve as a means of spread of disease. Gloves also serve as a kind of fomite. When you touch anything in the house or in the office, the microorganism, which in the current scenario is a coronavirus, is attached to the gloves. So the more the surfaces you touch, the more the chance and a load of the virus sticking to your beloved gloves. If now you touch your face, which is by the way almost an average of 20 times an hour for a normal individual, it gets transferred onto your face inevitably. Our face has several mucous membranes, for example, eyes, mouth, and nose. If it gets transferred to these surfaces, a person can contract the disease.
Therefore, in order to prevent one from contracting it, we need to stop touching our faces and wash our hands frequently rather than use gloves for extended periods. And the best way to keep our hands from touching our faces is to keep them busy in things like writing something, reading something, cooking, or just sticking them in your pockets when you’re outside.
Gloves also have the potential to become a choking hazard at times in homes with children. It is, therefore, extremely crucial to understand that they cannot be kept lying around or even forgotten in places where children can easily reach, like under the beds, couches, or sofas. Be vigilant about these if you are adamant about using gloves anyways. It is also highly recommended to learn the basic skill of ‘Heimlich’s maneuver’ which can come handy if anyone chokes on anything ever, not just gloves. Several trusted videos are available online to teach it, and it will definitely come in handy someday because mitigation of an emergency needs just seconds to minutes to do the right thing to prevent anything disastrous.
To conclude, I’d only say that it’s amazing to note how the world has to now learn to understand the slightest of the details possible about such things which were once considered so insignificant We all need to gain an insight into the depths of the things which were once never known. Nonetheless, it has bettered the health awareness factor that once lacked amongst the common masses, and now we can proudly say that we can not only take due care of our own health but also educate the community around us to prosper and thrive. Because after all, we can only survive together if we learn to hold on to things and people who matter to us, coupled with all the necessary precautions and knowledge at hand.
This article is written by Dr. Aafreen Kotadiya
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