Podcast, Dr Aiswarya Explains: As coronavirus cases rise, here are the best ways to protect yourself from germs without a mask

The novel coronavirus, recently declared as a pandemic by the World Health Organisation, poses major public health challenges for India. As the country seeks to battle the infection, accurate information is key.

Aiswarya Rao March 17, 2020 07:50:22 IST
Podcast, Dr Aiswarya Explains: As coronavirus cases rise, here are the best ways to protect yourself from germs without a mask

The novel coronavirus, recently declared as a pandemic by the World Health Organisation, poses major public health challenges for India. As the country seeks to battle the infection, accurate information is key.

In this context, a new podcast — 'Dr Aishwarya Explains' — seeks to outline the do's and don'ts in dealing with coronavirus, how harmful a cough or sneeze can be, and the most effective protective gear to use to avoid catching the infection.

The host is Dr Aishwarya Rao — a pediatrician and public health consultant who has worked in the field of HIV/AIDS treatments and prevention programs for the Government of India, as well as Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh state governments.

She also led and managed the National Revised TB Control Program (RNTCP), Integrated Counseling and Testing Centres (ICTC), Prevention of Parent to Child Transmission(PPTCT) Program in both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh for four years.

This is the first episode of the podcast.

Script of Episode 1:

I am Dr. Aiswarya Rao, a pediatrician and public health Consultant, and I am going to walk you through a series of myths and misconceptions in relation to the coronavirus.

On the coronavirus battlefield, everyone with a cough or a sneeze is a potential enemy, firing away their germs like ballistic missiles. What is the best and the safest way to sneeze or cough and not get everyone around you sick?

If you are healthy, you really don’t need to wear a mask. The surgical masks do not protect you against viruses anyway, as virus particles can still get around the edges of the mask, underneath the mask, maybe even through the mask and when you take the mask on or off you face, you actually spread the virus that is deposited on it from your hands back on to your body.

You are doing this because the mask has become a sort of reservoir for viral particles. Most people don’t realise that if you do not wear an N95 mask with a proper fitting, its not necessarily going to offer you any benefit.

And if you wear this N95 mask properly, its very uncomfortable as you do your tasks during the day, and not very practical. These masks are primarily for health care workers, like doctors, nurses who come into contact with sick people. And there are not enough masks to go around, and these health care workers who are taking care of people need many masks a day, and they are unable to get them.

What if you do have symptoms of cough and sneeze, and you do not have the N95 mask, how do you ensure that you don’t pass it around?

Normally, you hold about ½ a litre of fluid in your lungs. When you sneeze, or cough, you release this spray, which is a hot, moist germ infested cloud. Once the cloud hits the air it expands breaking into snotty strings, and then into a series of different sized droplets, all trapped in a turbulent gas cloud.

Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have done tests that show that cough projects 3,000 droplets of mucus upto 11 feet away travelling at a speed of 80 kilometres/hour… And when you sneeze that generates upto 1 lakh droplets in one go, spraying at a speed of 160 kilometres/hour, that’s more than 2 kilometres/sec – that’s about twice the speed of a cough. That’s fast enough to get a speeding ticket on the highway.

Also when you sneeze without covering your mouth the smaller droplets can travel much further upto 25 feet away, that’s about 5 desks away. Not only that. The germ infested gas cloud is less dense than air and so it rises upwards and right through the ventilation system to other people’s noses and mouths in nearby rooms. These droplets can remain suspended in the air for upto 10 minutes depending on the ventilation. Droplets deposited on steel surfaces with the virus can survive for upto 3 hours to multiple hours depending on the size of the droplet.

But if you sneeze into the crook of your elbow – something called the Dracula sneeze – the droplets travel very little — less that 1 foot away. If you sneeze into a hanky, no droplets are sprayed, however the mucus seeps into your hands, and it’s an easy way to spread the germs.

We have also been taught from childhood to cover our mouths with our hands when we cough. Sneezing and coughing into your hands is quite effective at doing exactly the opposite thing of spreading the virus around.

Your hands get infected with germs and when you touch door knobs, pens, desk surfaces, counter tops, steel rails among other things, you pass on the germs to other who may touch them. However if you cough into a disposable tissue, there is no spray, and nothing get through into your hands.

So in conclusion, never cough into your hands. And don’t use a hanky either. Cover your mouth and nose with a disposable tissue when you cough or sneeze and put the used tissue into a waste basket and wash your hands.

If you don’t have a tissue readily available, cough into elbow. Wash your hands with soap and warm water for 20 secs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol based hand rub. Turn away from other people while coughing or sneezing. Move away from other people who are coughing or sneezing.

So this coronavirus season, which method are you using when you cough or sneeze? The hand? The elbow? The hanky? Or the disposable tissue?

This is Dr. Aiswarya Rao signing off and I will see you with the next episode of Coronavirus — myths and misconceptions on the next podcast.

Updated Date:

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