Keeping the Covid (and other viral critters) at bay

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will be aware that the world as we knew it to be, no longer exists. We don’t know what it will look like in the next few weeks, months or even years, but we can all agree that like it or not, things have changed, dramatically.

Most of us are sitting in our homes, wondering. When will it be over? Will I be able to pay all my bills? Will I still have a job? Will I fall ill with it?  Will a loved one succumb to it? Will I have the same freedoms as before?  The answer for these questions is unknown for most. It is the most terrifying part of an unprecedented, invisible threat. We can’t see it coming. We can’t ensure that we’ve safe guarded ourselves properly. Nothing we have done up until now has ensured our complete safety, from the virus itself, or from the ripple effect it’s having on the world’s economy, financial institutions or job security. While I can’t offer any sage advice on how to secure yourself financially, I can offer some advice on how to keep as safe as possible from contracting a virus, be it Covid-19 or any other virus you may be placed in contact with.

Before I continue I need to say, I am not a medical professional by any measure. I am merely a mother to a formidable young lady who was born extremely premature, had severe lung issues for the first few months of her life with Chronic Lung Disease, had zero immune system at birth and is still classified as high risk for any respiratory illness. The preventative measures I’m listing below are what we as a family practiced religiously for the first year of her life, many we continue to practice to this day.

  1. Social Distancing: This is a term which everyone is suddenly very familiar with. In essence it’s the practice of keeping a safe distance of around 2 metres (6 feet) between yourself and someone in public.  Social distancing also refers to distancing yourself from large gatherings of people, shopping centres, markets, festivals, church ceremonies, etc.
  2. Isolation:  For us this essentially meant that very few people were allowed within our home during high risk seasons.  Those who were permitted had to adhere to very strict rules (which I’ll get into later). Isolation also meant that we were largely home bound, we did not attend parties, braai’s, large gatherings. Outings to shops were highly restricted and limited to essential shopping only, with only one member of the family tending to these errands.
  3. Hygiene:  The rule here is simple in nature. Try to ensure that any exposure to the outside world does not result in personal contamination.  Following on personal contamination is the need to ensure that possible contamination is not brought into your home.

Social distancing is one of the elements of our protocol that we have relaxed with over the years as our daughter has grown, required social stimulation and developed her immune system. We slowly started taking her into public spaces, allowing her to play with other children, going to touch farms, play parks and kids parties, but were always mindful of the season and who we interacted with.

Isolation has also progressively relaxed over the years, again, we are still incredibly mindful of who we allow into our home, our closest friends and families are acutely aware that we will not allow anyone in who is ill or who has been exposed to someone who is ill.  Our daughter is in pre-school, I started working full time, we spend more time in public spaces than we did in her formative years.

Hygiene, or rather sanitization, for me was one of the hardest ones to relax on. Keeping in mind we were on the extreme precautionary end of the spectrum. Up until the pandemic was declared and Covid hit our country, I was still very much trying to keep a level head and maintain a sense of calm over how extreme my measures of prevention were required to be.

When cases started appearing in the country and the spread escalated we discussed removing our daughter from school and going into lockdown with her. The morning after the president announced a date for a nationwide lockdown, our daughter woke up with a fever and immediately we knew her system was further compromised and we set into motion our families lockdown ahead of the nationally mandated one.

The points below are what we follow currently and have done in the past through her first year and through ‘flu seasons’ since.  I hope they assist you in keeping you and your family safe:

  • Stay home as far as is possible. Refrain from unnecessary trips. If you need groceries, arrange home deliveries or ensure that you plan one trip out to get all of your essentials;
  • Plan trips to shops at low peak times, early mornings, late evenings, when most stores are relatively quiet and large crowds are unlikely;
  • Wear sensible, easily washable shoes, they won’t be entering your home and will likely be sanitized, so wear something that you won’t cry over being ruined;
    • Take along a sanitizer spray and/or wipes with you to the store;
    • Wipe/spray the trolley, not just the handle, the entire trolley, the groceries you bring home are resting in that trolley;
    • Wipe/spray each item you pick from a shelf wherever possible before placing it in your trolley. Try not to pick up items unless you intend on purchasing them;
    • Take along a handwritten shopping list instead of your phone, every time you touch your phone you risk contaminating it;
    • Wipe/spray the till counter and ask the teller and bag packer to sanitize their hands before handling your groceries;
    • Wipe/spray your hand before touching the card machine, and after;
    • Try to reduce the need for using physical money, notes and coins are a haven for carrying viruses and bacteria;
    • Wear a suitable mask in public if the need requires it;
    • Don’t touch your face unless you have washed your hands or sanitized them, just don’t do it;
    • Don’t bother with gloves, most of you are using them incorrectly to begin with; wash your hands and/or sanitize correctly, before and after your shopping trip;
    • Spray your grocery bags before placing them in your vehicle;
    • It goes without saying, if you are using disposable masks and gloves, dispose of them safely and suitably in a bin where nobody else will have physical contact with them;
    • Remove your shoes before you enter your home;
    • Remove your clothes, place them into the washing machine immediately and take a nice, long, hot soapy shower before greeting your family;
    • Refrain from physical contact as far as possible, no hugging (I personally loved this as I’m not really a hugger), no handshakes and definitely no kisses on the cheeks or lips;
    • If you are having guests over (out of lockdown period), make it abundantly clear that they are to be freshly showered and clean as well as wearing clothing that has not been exposed to public spaces, they should not have been in recent contact with friends, family or work colleagues who are ill and they themselves should not be ill.

This all may sound like a lot to digest, and you would be spot on there, but when the health and wellbeing of yourself and your loved ones is at stake, it’s a small price to pay. The severity and intensity to which you follow these suggestions is up to you and largely depends on the time of year, for us we follow these far more diligently through autumn and winter when colds and flus are more prevalent.

These protocols were put in place after discussions with our daughter’s specialists and medical professionals, to ensure that we minimized exposure to ourselves as well as her and are largely what we follow currently with the Covid-19 pandemic. 

You may feel that this is all much ado about nothing, but for those of us who understand that a common cold can prove deadly, these protocols are potentially lifesaving.  If you choose to believe it’s all a tad much then I ask one simple favour of you. When you do go out into public, still practice good hygiene, refrain from touching surfaces unnecessarily, refrain from taking your child to the shops when they are sick, and if you have no choice, ensure that they have a mask on and do not touch anything, Covid pandemic or not, we all need to take a little more care of our actions in public spaces.

Here’s also a fantastic video to watch to show you how to correctly use hand sanitizer:

Here’s a video showing the danger of using gloves incorrectly:

Here’s a video to show you how to wash your hands correctly:

I hope the above has helped you. And as always, stay safe!


Some of our supply with a handy small bottle to spray trolleys, bags and groceries and a small spritzer for hands and door handles.

Understanding Influenza A and it’s vaccination.

For those of us in the Southern Hemisphere, winter is upon us. Riding in it’s coat tails and holding on steadfast is all forms of cold and flus waiting to attach themselves onto anyone in their path.

In Port Elizabeth, South Africa, we saw the closure of a prominent primary school yesterday as a result of an outbreak of Influenza A. A reported 20-25% of staff and pupils diagnosed and listing as absent from school attendance.

One of the biggest questions I’ve seen being asked is why do people get sick more frequently in winter than in summer?

Well, it’s not the weather which is directly responsible for people getting sick, but rather that viruses tend to spread easier in lower temperatures. In drier climates it’s even suggested that because of the dry air conditions it is easier for viruses to enter the body.

How do we protect ourselves from picking up unwanted viruses?

Two of the most effective methods of prevention is hygiene and vaccinations.

If you are exhibiting signs of illness it is advised to stay home for the duration of your illness, to prevent the spread of the virus.

If you have no choice but to go into public spaces and risk exposing others, wear a face mask, wash your hands, cough into a hankerchief or into the elbow of your arm, not your hand. Keep sanitizer on hand to wash your hands regularly. Sanitise your hands before touching items and objects in public spaces that others will be exposed to.

The same goes for prevention. If you are going into public spaces, grab some sanitizer and wipe down objects that you may need to touch, or use a sanitizer wipe as a surface barrier between your skin and the object.

The second most effective method of prevention is vaccinations. While this can be a hot topic of discussion in other forums, it isn’t one in our world, it’s a non negotiable for our family.

What are we vaccinating against?

Every year the World Health Organization (WHO) develops a flu vaccine for protection against specific strains of Influenza.  The annual vaccination normally provides protection against three strains of the flu which is predicted to be the greatest threat for that year.

This year the vaccination is designed to provide immunity against two different Influenza A strains and one Influenza B strain.

Influenza A can be found in humans, animals and birds while Influenza B is isolated to humans.

Who should be vaccinated?

In an ideal world we should all be receiving a vaccination to best protect us.

The most at risk of individuals, as well as their family members should vaccinate themselves. At risk individuals are best described as those who:

  • Babies and small children;
  • Immune compromised individuals (HIV-positive individuals and individuals receiving radiation or chemotherapy);
  • Individuals who are over the age of 65 years;
  • Asthmatics and emphysema sufferers;
  • Individuals who suffer chronic from chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart issues, organ issues; and
  • Woman in their second or third trimester of pregnancy.

Can the vaccination make me sick?

There is a misconception that the Influenza vaccination can actually give you the very viruses which it is designed to combat. This is false. It does not contain the live virus, but it can exhibit mild ‘flu-like’ symptoms which are short term in duration. It can have some side effects (as is the risk with any medication) but the side effects should be no more than some pain, redness or swelling around the site of the vaccination, muscle aches and drowsiness. In rare cases allergic reactions have been reported, but the risk versus reward outweighs this concern.

Why should we vaccinate?

The flu causes an estimated 6 000-11 000 deaths every year in South Africa alone. The most affected are the elderly who account for nearly 50% of deaths, followed by 30% being related to HIV-positive patients. The highest rates of hospitalization occurs between children of 5 years age and under along with elderly and HIV-positive individuals. Last year in South Africa 8-10% of patients hospitalized for pneumonia and 25% of patients who showed flu-like symptoms tested positive for influenza.

When should I or a loved one have one?

Just ahead of the flu season is the best time. But if you missed that, then right now!!!  Vaccinations are available at most pharmacies. Most medical aids cover the injection and if medical aid doesn’t, it costs near R100.00 for a vaccination. 

How long will it protect me?

Remember that the vaccine itself needs around 10 days from administration to become fully effective. It should keep you protected for the duration of the winter/flu season. But understand that you are not protected against all strains of influenza, only those which the vaccine was designed to combat.

Please note that I am not a medical practitioner and it is always advisable to consult with your family doctor, specialist and/or paediatrician about your overall health and well being.