A woman is using a disinfectant dispenser.
The new normal

Hygiene in everyday life with coronavirus

Hygiene in everyday life with coronavirus
With the coronavirus pandemic, awareness of hygiene in everyday life has changed all over the world. For example, disinfecting one's hands before and after taking the bus has become as second nature to many as brushing their teeth in the morning. But what does this “new normal” mean for ordinary families? We talked to a young mother about her experiences over the last two years and will give practical hygiene tips for everyday life.

Everyday hygiene becomes more important in private life

There is no question about it: since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the topic of hygiene has become enormously more important in the lives of many people. A recent study by the opinion research institute YouGov, in which over 2,000 people from Germany took part, showed this rather clearly: In May 2021, almost half of the respondents (46 percent) had used hand disinfectants several times a day in the last month. Only six percent of the respondents had completely abstained from this hygiene measure in the same period. By comparison, before the pandemic began, more than half of the respondents (60 percent) had never used disinfectants.[1] The numbers are likely to be similar in many other countries.

However, even though increased awareness of hygiene measures as well as lockdowns and vaccinations have led to reduced hospitalisation rates and better protected vulnerable groups, the pandemic is still not completely over. On the occasion of World Patient Safety Day on 17 September, one of the WHO’s international health days, we therefore want to show you which hygiene measures are still important in everyday life. This is the only way we can stop the further spread of the virus and ultimately also better protect patients in hospitals and health care staff.

Living in and with the new normal

A kindergarten teacher is wearing mask in the kindergarten.
FFP2 masks are an important measure to protect children and kindergarten teachers from infection.

To find out what challenges ordinary families have to deal with in this context and how they experience the new normal, we spoke to Giulia Bölkow from the HARTMANN SCIENCE CENTER at BODE Chemie GmbH. Giulia lives near Hamburg and is the mother of two-year-old Ida – a typical “Covid child”. The past two years have not always been easy for the small family. “As parents, you have a completely different perspective during the pandemic, because there is always the danger of infecting not only yourself but also your children. This can sometimes be very stressful,” the young mother says.

Especially because of her daughter's daycare attendance since about one year, the concern about infection was initially great. However, the centre has always reacted appropriately to the respective infection situation with suitable hygiene measures, as Giulia explains: “Last autumn and winter, for example, when the number of coronavirus cases was particularly high, the kindergarten teachers had to test themselves every day and wear masks continuously when they came in contact with strangers, such as parents. There was also a strict separation between the individual groups of children to prevent infection among them."

The new normal: coronavirus won’t disappear

At the moment, the day-to-day life at the day-care centre is less determined by the coronavirus, says Giulia. Nevertheless, certain regulations remain in place – such as parents only entering the facility very occasionally and wearing masks, and in the vast majority of cases handing over their children at the entrance. At the same time, the day-care centre relies on the parents’ personal responsibility. “We test ourselves several times a week so that we can react quickly in an emergency and support the day-care centre in its own precautionary measures,” confirms the young mother.
A woman is taking a Covid test.
Regular Covid testing continues to be useful to detect infections early and prevent them from spreading.

The pandemic created new hygiene habits

Like many other people, Giulia has become even more careful about proper hygiene in everyday life since the beginning of the pandemic. For example, she got into the habit of always disinfecting the handle of the shopping trolley. “In the past, I used to think less about it,” she says, “but since Ida sits in the shopping trolley more often and I can’t constantly check what she touches, I prefer to disinfect these areas before shopping.”

Disinfecting surfaces that are frequently touched, such as door handles, smartphone touch screens or the handles of shopping trolleys, can be a sensible measure even regardless of the coronavirus pandemic. After all, many viruses and bacteria can survive on these surfaces for several days or even weeks.[2] If you want to protect yourself from infection when you are out and about, you are well advised to use a surface disinfectant such as Sterillium® Protect & Care surface disinfectant spray*.

A woman is disinfecting the handle of a shopping trolley.
Frequently touched surfaces can have viruses and bacteria on them.

Hand washing remains the number one hygiene measure

However, even if hand disinfection can be a sensible measure in the private sphere for adults in many situations – in most cases, simply washing your hands with soap is completely sufficient.[3] For young children, washing their hands is the only option. Unfortunately, they are not exactly known for washing their hands regularly. Giulia therefore tries to set an example for her daughter:

“Children learn a lot by participating and imitating. At the moment, Ida and I always wash our hands together. I am convinced that this is how a certain awareness of hygiene automatically becomes part of her everyday life.”

Teaching hygiene awareness in a fun way

It often helps to teach children about hygiene in a playful way. “In Ida’s day-care centre, for example, there is a song about hand washing that the children sing together and that is supposed to help them have fun while washing their hands,” says Giulia. Such a song is a good way to teach children how to wash their hands and to anchor it in their everyday life.

Even banal things can be helpful, as the mother knows: “We have an automatic dispenser with colourful soap at home, which Ida loves. She now has so much fun with it that she wants to wash her hands as soon as she sees the sink.”

But when should children wash their hands? “I think it’s very important that we wash our hands after playing outside, because I don’t always know what she’s touched,” says Giulia and adds: “But Ida also has to wash her hands after going to the toilet, before eating and after petting animals.”

Mother and daughter are washing their hands together.
Parents can be role models for their children when it comes to regular hand hygiene.

Stay calm

Despite all this, Giulia tries not to be overly strict about hygiene. “I don’t want to teach Ida that you have to be afraid of infection all the time. Otherwise I couldn’t send her to day care, for example.” Of course, Giulia thinks that hygiene is essential in everyday life. Nevertheless she points out: “You should always ask yourself when simply washing your hands is enough.”

As a “Covid child”, Ida almost automatically grows up with a stronger awareness of hygiene than the generations before her. Giulia also observes this. It becomes particularly clear when dealing with masks. “Ida doesn’t know any different than us wearing a mask in shops, for example. Now she even notices when we suddenly don’t wear one anymore,” Giulia says. The new normal has an influence on all of us – from senior citizens to small children.

More hygiene awareness through World Patient Safety Day

Since 2019, the WHO has proclaimed World Patient Safety Day every year on 17 September. With this, the organisation wants to raise global awareness for patient safety and ensure better hygiene conditions in the health care system. But this is not only a task for hospitals and nursing homes. The more people take responsibility for interrupting chains of infection in their private lives – for example, by practising proper hand hygiene – the fewer people will have to be treated as patients in the first place.
A nurse wearing goggles, a mask and a protective suit is treating a coronavirus patient.
Every individual can contribute to greater patient safety – among other things through proper hand hygiene in everyday life.

Sources:

[1] YouGov Chartbericht „Verwendung von Händedesinfektionsmittel bei Endverbrauchern 2021“

[2] https://www.quarks.de/gesundheit/medizin/so-lange-ueberleben-keime-auf-oberflaechen/

[3] Infektionsschutz.de / Wichtige Informationen zum Händewaschen https://www.infektionsschutz.de/haendewaschen/ (abgerufen am: 16.08.2022)

*Use disinfectants safely. Always read the label and product information before use.

Please amend in accordance with local requirements (e.g. law of advertising, product status, CLP labelling)

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