Many websites and sources are recommending washing your hands with a soap and water for around 20 seconds to help against coronavirus. However, it’s really confusing statement. Let us see how.
Is corona virus a new virus?
Covid-19 is a new disease for everyone in the world, caused by SARS-COV-2. Although there were viruses known to man that resemble current coronavirus, they were never researched as extensively as current corona virus is being studied. However, we still have very little data available and it’s changing every single day too.
As the time passes, new guidelines get added, old ones become obsolete. The general understanding of the virus has shifted too since it was identified in China in initial days.
One of those guideline is regarding usage of soap water and alcohol based sanitizers. Both of which are extremely important and vital part of protection from coronavirus.
How does washing hands with soap water help?
Washing hands with soap and water helps us against coronavirus in two ways.
- Denaturing the virus
- Washing it away from our hands
Washing hands helps in denaturing the virus
When we wash the hands with soap and water, it damages the protective coating of a specific type of viruses, that includes HIV and Corona Virus, etc.
The damaged virus can not survive and dies. This is very much effective, but obviously there is still risk of some virus particles surviving the procedure.
This is way it’s recommended that we wash our hands for at least 20 seconds to kill coronavirus. Practically it’s still very less time but still better than nothing.
Washing helps by removing the virus physically, not just killing
When we wash our hands, we remove the coronavirus due to washing affect too, not just by killing it.
By washing hands with soap and water, we wash away all the dirt and oil layer on our hands. This essentially cleans our hands by washing affect of water too.
Overuse of soap can lead to many infections
Yes you read it right. Excess of anything is bad. If we overdo soap usage, it can lead to increased risk of infection too. This happens due to:
- removal of useful bacteria, giving space for harmful bacteria and fungi
- making bacteria resistant
Thus a moderate use of soaps is advised only.
How much should you wash hands with soap water for coronavirus?
Keep it in moderation. Do wash your hands if you consider that the benefit is greater than risk. Do wash your hands when you:
- Go out of your home. Yes, wash your hands before going out, so that you don’t infect others in case you are carrying the virus in your body and on your hands.
- Enter your house. When you come in to your home from outside, first thing you should do is wash your hands with soap water. If you were out for a longer duration or have exposed yourself to covid-19 suspected individuals, change your clothes too. Make sure that you don’t touch the clean clothes without washing your hands.
- Before you eat anything. Even when covid-19 has ended, make a habit of washing your hands before you eat.
- Before you need to touch anyone else or even your own face. Especially your eyes, nose and mouth. Or even ears. Some argue that ears don’t come in the list, but anyone can have a perforated tympanic membrane due to any past trauma.
Is hand sanitizer as effective as soap water?
No. As discussed above, soap water helps not only by killing the virus, but also through the washing affect of water too.
However it doesn’t happen with alcohol based sanitizers. So based on currently available data, prefer soap water when you can.
Which soap is most effective against coronavirus?
Any soap. It doesn’t even have to be antibacterial soap. We just need the anti-lipid capability of the soap to help us get rid of the virus. Which includes lipid emulsifying chemicals, etc of the soap
Data related to coronavirus is continuously modifying. Keep checking the authentic sources of information and follow the guidelines. Best sources are CDC and WHO (I personally prefer CDC over WHO).
Keep washing your hands optimally, but don’t overdo it.