While scientists work on a vaccine to eliminate COVID-19, doctors offer frontline perspectives to block the spread of the virus, with tips for keeping the mouth, nose and eyes healthy.
Members of the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS) are facial plastic surgeons, board certified, and trained experts on the face and neck. They offer front line perspectives to block the spread of the virus with tips for keeping the mouth, nose and eyes healthy. The COVID-19 viral particle is both infectious by aerosolization and by being present on surfaces. The germs become infectious by the particles entering the body by the mouth, nose or eyes.
While scientists work on a vaccine, the following tips should be followed:
Masks: This virus can be transmitted by people who aren’t showing symptoms. So, covering the nose and mouth to prevent spread from an asymptomatic infected person is important. Also, a mask protects the mask wearer from others who are contagious.
“It is important to wear masks correctly,” says Theda Kontis, MD, a facial plastic surgeon and AAFPRS board member. “They should cover the nose and mouth; sanitize hands before and after placement of the mask. Also masks can be irritating to our skin, can cause friction injuries and increases acne, rosacea, and other skin conditions. We encourage washing the face well with warm water and antibacterial soap and pat dry. Apply a dimethicone-containing product to protect the skin and use a moisturizer about 30 minutes before applying a mask.”
Hand Washing: Washing or sanitizing the hands frequently is important so people don’t get the viral particles on hands and then infect themselves by touching their eyes, nose or mouth. Don’t’ forget cell phones—they are dirty. Clean them as often as you clean your hands (either with a UV light sterilizer, or alcohol-based sanitizer).
Eye Protection: Medical professionals wear eye protection when less than 3 feet from patients. Social distancing of 6 feet probably does not require eye protection from aerosolized viral particles. However, rubbing your eyes with infected hands will probably result in COVID infection. Keep hands off the face and mouth and sanitize hands and disinfect surfaces frequently.
Gloves: Kontis doesn’t recommend that the general public wear gloves. “Most people think of gloves as a means to keep hands clean. Medical professionals use gloves to do one task then throw the gloves away. I see so many people now wearing winter or medical gloves, who are touching potentially infected surfaces, then touching their face, cell phone, steering wheel, etc. Gloves can make the situation WORSE by spreading infection.”
There can be rare exceptions of course, but by and large protecting yourself from contracting this disease really comes down to simple measures. “You’ve got to develop a strategy to prevent the virus from moving from your hands to your mouth, nose or eyes. This is how the vast majority of infections are likely acquired. When you venture out of your house, be prepared. Give yourself a pep talk,” says facial plastic surgeon Patrick Byrne, MD, AAFPRS board member. “You are going to be careful. The mask is key because it serves as a reminder not to touch your face. Consciously reminding yourself about your hands is something you cannot do too frequently. What must you touch? Can you avoid touching much? How can you make sure you wash your hands frequently, especially prior to touching your face?”
Today’s new normal is very different because of COVID-19. Practicing these simple Coronavirus safety tips when going out in public will help protect you especially as more states begin reopening.