The things we often use can be our biggest health risks

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
maxPaginationLinks: 10

We tend to forget that personal belongings such as phones are also considered "high touch surfaces" that we need to consistently disinfect. Illustration by JL JAVIER

​Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — ​​​​​​Months after the first COVID-19 case in the country, the threat of the pandemic still persists. As most of the country is now under general community quarantine and more establishments slowly resume operations, some people may start to be more lenient with the necessary precautions. But nobody should be any less vigilant in complying with health guidelines.

Most people already have their disinfecting routine down pat, which involves taking off the mask and disposing of it properly, leaving shoes by the door, thoroughly washing their hands, and disinfecting whatever was brought inside the house. It’s easy enough to remember doing all these steps, but not everyone disinfects as well as they should. Some people tend to gloss over everyday items that should be cleaned as well.

According to Dr. Karl Evans Henson, Director of Hospital Infection Control and Epidemiology Center at The Medical City, people need to be wary of “high touch surfaces.” In public places, such as hospitals, these surfaces would be the doorknobs, handles, rails, and tables. However, we often tend to forget that personal belongings also fall under this category. It pays to have a little more attention to detail to avoid compromising your health.

‘High touch surfaces’ at home

Smartphones are the most common high touch surface that need constant disinfecting, even without a pandemic. After all, it’s dubbed as “the third hand you never wash” because it is exposed to everything the hands touch. People often use it for all sorts of tasks, from crossing off items on the grocery list, checking the time, or staying updated on social media. Even if you wash your hands properly, you are exposing yourself to the same risks if you never clean your phone.

People also often underestimate just how often their wallet gets in contact with so many objects and surfaces. Wallets carry cash, which are passed from person to person, as well as cards and IDs that we may tend to use for errands.

Along with the shift to a work-from-home setup for several workers, people are either on their desktop computers or laptops at all times. The line between working and resting are blurred. These devices aren’t much a threat to the user if they always wash their hands properly. Still, some people forget to disinfect their hands before typing away.

Finally, bags are also some of the items we tend to forget when disinfecting. It could have come into contact with contaminated surfaces without the knowledge of its owner. As a preventive measure, opt for a lighter bag to avoid having to put it down.

“If we wash our hands frequently before touching any of these high touch surfaces, we would have solved half the problem already,” says Henson. The key is to wash hands properly with soap and water or solutions with 70% alcohol for at least 20 seconds.

These personal items can be cleaned with alcohol wipes before being brought inside homes or cars. It also works to use paper towels doused with alcohol. Allow it to dry on the object. Large surfaces, on the other hand, can be wiped down with a diluted bleach solution that is 1 part bleach and 99 parts water. Use products with quaternary ammonium compounds such as Lysol or Clorox disinfectant wipes.

The don'ts of disinfecting

Several unverified or inaccurate information on how to counter the virus have been in circulation, requiring people to take more caution when planning on how to observe necessary cleanliness.

Quite recently, more ultraviolet (UV) disinfectant lamps and pocket sterilizers are being sold online, believed to kill the virus in their body, personal belongings, and household furniture. There is evidence that UV-C can be used to disinfect against SARS-CoV-2, but studies found it to be carcinogenic to humans. “Because there is uncertainty, it would do us well to be very careful about these devices,” says Henson.

Some people still disclose that the summer heat will stop the coronavirus spread. Although some viruses, like seasonal influenza, peak during certain seasons, the World Health Organization clarified that exposure to the sun does not kill the virus. There is no definitive study yet whether it has a seasonal pattern, so the public should continue with preventive measures.

Much like the use of gloves, misting tents may also give Filipinos a false sense of security. It shows that an institution is making a tangible step to combat the spread of the virus. In reality, it may cause more harm than good. They aren’t meant to be directly sprayed on humans and can be especially dangerous to those with asthma. Such tents are necessary for hospitals where health workers are wearing protective gear, but not for malls and public places. “The likelihood of anyone getting infected material on their clothes and skin is very small,” says Henson. "But the chance of one of those misting tents harming someone is much higher."

After months of trying to live life as close to normal as possible amid the pandemic, people are now somehow desensitized to the risk of being infected. This explains why individuals may not adhere to safety precautions anymore. However, the pandemic must still be taken seriously, despite the fatigue of hyper awareness and sensitivity to the immediate environment at all times. In this time of crisis, it is important to keep ourselves healthy by turning safety practices into habits.