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Sanitizing fruits and vegetables for COVID-19: Know how to disinfect medicine strips, bread, grocery packets and more

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Washing vegetables with soap and water? Using hydrogen peroxide for disinfecting surfaces? While you may be protecting yourself from the Coronavirus, you may end up exposing yourself to toxic chemicals that could lead to a gastrointestinal infection. Read our medical expert’s advice, to prevent yourself from falling into the trap of unscientific ways and methods

With the new Omicron variant surfacing in various parts of the country, we have to focus on staying safe. India has entered the high-risk list of countries with the new Omicron variant spreading fast. While research is still ongoing, on how potent this variant of Coronavirus is, we must continue to focus on ensuring hygiene. While sanitizing everything entering our homes may have been religiously followed last year, homeowners may have relaxed this rule, after taking one’s vaccinations and with the low COVID numbers in the last few months after the second wave gradually receded. Now, it is time to get back to the grind again with the coming of the new Omicron variant.

In spite of the rollout of vaccines, one still needs to be cautious and maintain hygiene at home. While every household tries out ways to keep the COVID-19 disease at bay, what about those surfaces that you invariably touch on a daily basis? There have been many debates about whether or not the Coronavirus’ new variant, Omicron, spreads through contaminated surfaces. However, the wise thing to do ensures hygiene at all times.

Experts have warned that respiratory droplets on such surfaces, could be a major source for the spread of the Coronavirus. Housing.com News reached out to Dr. Gaurav Singh, senior medical officer, Central Coalfields Ltd and ex-resident, AIIMS Bhubaneswar for some tips.

“It is important to understand that sanitizing raw vegetables, milk packets, and daily-touch objects were always important and not just because of the Coronavirus. Some people have started using detergent and water for sanitizing fruits and vegetables for COVID-19. The problem with such techniques is that it is nearly impossible to prevent contamination due to soap or detergent. Therefore, one may end up with a gastrointestinal infection, as a result of using unscientific ways,” says Singh. To prevent COVID-19 one merely has to follow some simple hygiene practices and follow it, irrespective of whether there is a pandemic or not.

Viruses are assemblies of, say, proteins, nucleic acids, lipids, and carbohydrates and need living cells to thrive. Therefore, outside your body, the Coronavirus is as good as ‘dead’. It cannot do anything to surfaces but you can be affected if you touch the contaminated surface. Now, with the new strain of the Coronavirus named after the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet, Omicron can only be confirmed reliably by genome sequencing. COVID test kits with S-gene dropout capabilities can also be used to quickly detect the presence of the Omicron virus.

Omicron variant Coronavirus in India: Latest numbers

Total cases States infected

Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, and Telangana

Data as of December 15, 2021

Follow the simple and effective tips by Dr. Singh, to keep yourself and your family safe from the Coronavirus.

Sanitizing fruits and vegetables for COVID-19 prevention

Viruses do not grow on food but raw vegetables can be a good vehicle for it. Did you know that Hepatitis A was linked to diced tomatoes, lettuce, and raspberries? An infected person can contaminate the food and pass on the virus. Seafood, if it comes in contact with the feces of an infected person can also harm you. Viruses have a higher resistance to chemical treatments than bacteria or fungi. So how should you prevent contamination?

  • Wash raw vegetables in hot water or hot water with salt.
  • You could also try washing the vegetables multiple times with potable water to avoid Coronavirus on vegetables.
  • Hydrogen peroxide/potassium permanganate is used by many households but it is far more effective on bacteria than on viruses.
  • If you are using soap and water to clean the raw vegetables, make sure that the remnants of the soap on the surface are also cleaned well. It is difficult to wash off such stains and soap particles. Soap stains are often visible on plates, even after you wash them. The same stands true for vegetables. In fact, it is more difficult to remove soap from the surface of vegetables.
  • It is best to avoid eating raw food/salads now. Cooked food minimizes the risk of infection. Make sure food is properly cooked. If you use raw vegetables in salads, clean these with extra care to avoid Coronavirus on vegetables.
  • You may want to wear gloves when you are handling/buying vegetables and fruits. Make sure you wash these gloves once you are home.
  • Do not place vegetables brought from outside, straight on the kitchen counter.
  • If there are vegetables that cannot be washed as soon as you bring them in, try to keep them in a closed space and do not cook or consume them within three to four hours.
  • Most households use domestic help and cooks, who help us on a day-to-day basis. To be fully satisfied with the cleanliness, do the cleaning yourself or train your domestic help to do so.

Food safety measures to consider

It is important to know how to clean grocery packets during COVID. According to the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), you must follow the guidelines mentioned below:

  1. Keep away food packets bought from outside. Avoid keeping it directly in the refrigerator.
  2. Potable water is enough to clean fruits and vegetables. You may use a 50 ppm drop of chlorine, if available.
  3. Avoid soaps, disinfectants, or cleaning products and wipes on fruits and vegetables.
  4. Washed food should not be kept just about anywhere in your house. Keep it in a dedicated space, so that it does not get contaminated by staying on some other daily-touch surface.
  5. Packets can be cleaned with soap or an alcohol-based solution.
  6. Disinfect the sink after cleaning the food products.

How to sanitize bread packets and packed food?

Many of you may now be ordering food or using ready-to-eat meal packages. Take for example, How to sanitize bread packets? How should you handle such items so as to prevent COVID-19?

  • In some cases, washing the surface may not be easy. Try emptying the contents in an appropriate container or storage box. Bread can be put in a bread box.
  • Pulses and other such items can also be transferred to containers after the packet has been wiped clean with soap and water.
  • Wash your hands before touching the contents in a packet, while transferring it to a container.
  • Dispose of all packets in the dustbin and ensure that the dustbin is nowhere in reach of children.

How to disinfect medicine strips from Coronavirus?

Even medicine strips have changed hands multiple times right from packing, procuring, distribution, to the shopkeepers and then to buyers. There is no evidence of sanitizers working on it but you can always keep them aside for a few hours before opening or consuming them. This will help to disinfect medicine strips from coronavirus.

Can Omicron Coronavirus spread via newspapers?

According to The World Health Organization (WHO), “The likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, traveled and exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low.” Newspapers are sterile, given the way they are processed and printed. This is why you will find most roadside vendors giving out street food to people in newspapers. However, this does not mean that it is entirely safe. If you are worried, it is alright to go ahead and cancel the subscription temporarily and opt for a digital version of the newspaper. Newspapers travel a long way, from the printing press to the distribution center, and hence, it is easier to put paper reading at bay for some time.

How to sanitize milk packets?

Hot water and soap is the best way to clean these packets. Avoid placing unwashed packets in the refrigerator or pouring the milk into a vessel, without washing the packet first.

Coronavirus: Common myths about sanitising daily-touch surfaces

How to sanitize your phone?

Now, phones are something that everyone possesses. There are chances that you may have placed it on a shop counter or on a vegetable seller’s cart. You may have even handed it over to an outsider for some reason or attended a long call in a public space. Hence, you may feel that it is necessary to sanitize your phone. For this, use a non-abrasive disinfectant. With the help of a soft, lint-free cloth wipe clean the surface of the phone when it is unplugged. Do not use abrasive cleaners that will harm the screen. Your phone’s company too may have released guidelines about what kind of disinfectant can be applied on your phone. If you are confused, simply use a moderately wet wipe to clean the surface. Do not hand over your phone to other members of your family, especially toddlers, once you are back from somewhere. Make sure others handle your mobile phone only after you have disinfected it.

How to sanitize your mask?

Masks may become a part of your wardrobe for now, as medical experts insist on everyone using them while going outside the house. Most masks may not be made of a material that will last if you keep washing or sanitizing it. If you are giving a mask to a child under two years of age, make sure they do not feel suffocated. Follow the tips as listed below:

Wash your hands every time you touch your mask or remove it.

  • Do not let others touch or use your mask.
  • If you are opting for a homemade mask, avoid old fabric with wear and tear. Opt for thick fabric.
  • Remember that a homemade mask should not just protect you but also be effective enough to protect others if you happen to cough or sneeze.
  • If you are using N-95 or surgical masks, rather than washing them, experts advise that they should be air-dried for seven days.
  • Do not use alcohol, bleach, or even harsh soap or detergent. These may spoil the mask and its effectiveness.

How to handle dustbins and trash?

Your municipal corporation and privately-hired garbage disposal helpers, maybe help you to dispose of the dry and wet waste. At times, you may have to hand over the trash cans to another person and by the time it is returned to you, the dustbin may have changed hands multiple times. Here’s what you should do:

  • It would be better to use a trash bag, to avoid directly putting the trash into the bin.
  • When you dispose of it, remove just the bag and do not pass it on the trash can to another person.
  • Sanitize your trash cans once every two or three days with disinfectant. Sanitize it regularly if an outsider (municipal corporation helper, others) touches the surface.
  • Place the dustbin under the sun for some time, every day, if possible. Allow the dustbins to dry naturally after it is washed.
  • Do not keep dustbins within the reach of children.
  • If you are throwing contents that are prone to contamination into the trash, keep the bins away from where they may be handled frequently.
  • Wear gloves while handling or disposing of waste.

How to clean doors, knobs, and other surfaces?

It is more important to sanitize doors, doorknobs, tabletops, faucets, and such other daily-touch surfaces, especially if you or your family members are going out for work and errands. Clean the doors and knobs every day, because these are the most exposed areas and handled by many people, including family members, vendors, guests, courier delivery persons, etc. While you cannot enforce everyone to follow the rules, you can protect your family by doing the following:

  • Use a microfiber cloth and disinfectant spray to clean the surfaces. You can also use a simple soap and water solution to sanitize.
  • Use gloves when handling these surfaces.
  • Avoid touching your face when cleaning.
  • Keep a disinfectant spray handy in case you are not able to find time to sanitize the surfaces every time it is handled by an outsider.

How to sanitize a thermometer?

If you have a COVID-19 patient at home, it is important that you keep the thermometer and other medical supplies separate. However, sanitizing it after every use is imperative. Here is how to clean the thermometer:

  • Wash the tip of the thermometer with cold water.
  • Wipe the thermometer with alcohol-based wipes, which should have at least 70% alcohol. You can also use rubbing alcohol.
  • Rinse the thermometer again to wash the alcohol.
  • Wipe it dry with a soft cloth.

The process should be repeated after every use. You can also use antibacterial liquid soap, instead of alcohol, to clean and wipe the thermometer. Under any situation, the thermometer should not be used by any non-COVID patient.

How to sanitize oximeter?

  • Dampen a soft cloth with 10% bleach cleaning solution or use disinfecting wipes containing 10% bleach.
  • Do not pour or spray the solution onto your device.
  •  Wipe down all surfaces of the oximeter.
  • To clean the inside of the finger clip, gently open the oximeter and wipe all the surfaces inside. Do not open the oximeter all the way as it may damage the device.
  • Allow the oximeter to air dry or dry it with a clean, soft cloth before next use.

How to sanitize the mattress?

If you have a COVID-19 patient at home, it is important that you disinfect the mattress, as well as all the beddings, pillow covers, and sheets, once the patient has completely recovered. All washable materials should be cleaned separately. For disinfecting the mattress, follow the below procedure:

  1. Remove the accumulated dust from the mattress using a vacuum cleaner.
  2. Spray an alcohol-based sanitizer on the mattress and let it dry completely.
  3. Alternatively, you can use UV light to sanitize the mattress which is one of the most effective ways of removing viruses from any type of surface.
  4. You can also keep the mattress under bright sunlight for one to two days, before using it again.

How to wash and dry clothes at home?

There is no harm doing it the old, usual way if everyone in your household is healthy and at home. In case someone in your family is going out for work or if the children attend daycare or if you are meeting other families and are exposed to outsiders, you may need to take additional precautions. Wash such clothes separately. It is advisable to machine-wash such clothes at 60-90 degrees, with laundry detergent. Do not forget to wash your hands after handling these clothes.

How to sanitize currency notes?

Post demonetization, most businesses, big or small, have moved to e-payments. While this transition has been easy for many, for others it has posed problems. Currency notes are heavily handled and can be contaminated.

  • Use digital payment platforms, as much as possible.
  • If you have to use currency, make sure you wash your hands immediately afterward.
  • If you are in the marketplace, use a sanitizer immediately.
  • If you do not have a sanitizer, avoid touching your mouth or nose.

How to take deliveries from an agent?

This is a time to be careful while handling couriers, parcels, and deliveries. Most providers have assured us of delivery with ‘zero touches’ and are doing their bit to avoid  COVID-19.

  • Receive the packet in a separate tray, or use gloves.
  • Maintain a distance of at least 6 ft when you meet another person who has come from outside (not just a delivery person).
  • If possible, wash the packet under running water, or hot water.
  • If it is a big box, you may also try to keep a dustbin outside your home, in the balcony or porch area, and dispose of the packages and cartons immediately.
  • As much as possible, ask the delivery person to leave the package at the doorstep.
  • Wipe the doorknob clean, if it has been touched.

Can Coronavirus spread through clothes and shoes?

Whether you should change your clothes after you return home from somewhere, is a thought that might have crossed your mind several times now. So far, there have been no documented cases of the Coronavirus disease spreading through clothes or shoes. However, it is a matter of personal hygiene that you must change your clothes and keep your shoes away if you have come back home after running errands. This is primarily required because you will not know whom you may have come in contact with when you were outdoors – it could be a health worker exposed to a high-risk set-up or even an asymptomatic carrier of Coronavirus.

If you have maintained social distancing, you need not be worried and do not require to wash your clothes immediately after you get home. However, if you are unsure, changing clothes is a good idea.

How to disinfect the surroundings?

The market is flooded with a variety of products that can be used to keep Coronavirus at bay. Chemicals that are mostly used to disinfect the home and premises include chlorine dioxide, citric acid, ethanol, ethyl alcohol, glycolic acid, hydrochloric acid, hydrogen peroxide, iodine, isopropyl alcohol, lactic acid, phenolic, sodium chloride, quaternary ammonium, thymol, etc. These are some of the ingredients present in the products available in the market as solutions, wipes, mists, sanitizers, liquid hand wash, solutions, etc.

Avoid spraying these products near a cooking gas or other areas, as these may be inflammable.

Quick tips

  • Use a microfiber cloth and dampen it in hot water and any common all-purpose cleaning solution, to clean up doorknobs, countertops, switchboards, and other such surfaces. Use Dettol if you want to but hot water should be good.
  • For electronic items, use an alcohol-based solution. This includes mobile phones, remotes, keyboards, the TV surface, microwave ovens, etc.
  • If there are no outsiders visiting your house or if you are indoors all the time, there is no need to be excessively worried about contamination.
  • If you are eligible for vaccination at this point in time, that is, if you are above 45 years of age and suffering from co-morbidities or above 60 years of age, book an appointment for vaccination, immediately.

Busting common myths about the Coronavirus

When in doubt, it is better to be guided by accepted facts, than to lend your ear to the myths and rumors. The WHO has clarified some myths. Note the following:

Should I take the medication that my COVID-positive relative was prescribed?

Do not self-medicate with hydroxychloroquine. It does not help patients even with moderate symptoms. Also, the Coronavirus is a virus and not bacteria and antibiotics do not kill viruses. It is always a good idea to consult your doctor. before taking the medication. With the difference in your health, lifestyle, and immunity, medication may vary.

Should I wear a mask while exercising in a public park?

When exercising, do not use a mask. The easiest thing to do is avoid places where there are many people around and social distancing becomes a problem.

Can dirty shoes cause Coronavirus?

The Coronavirus may not spread through soiled shoes. However, it is a good practice to keep your shoes away, when you come home.

Can my mask cause suffocation?

Wearing masks may feel uncomfortable. However, it does not lead to carbon dioxide intoxication, nor does it cause oxygen deficiency, provided you are using the right mask.

Can thermal scanners detect corona?

Thermal scanners are not very effective and may not be able to detect the Coronavirus.

Can exposure to the sun prevent Coronavirus?

While exposure to the sun can ensure Vitamin D absorption, the understanding that hot weather can ‘kill’ the Coronavirus is a myth. Similarly, taking bath in hot water is good for the body but not a sufficient guarantee that it will keep Coronavirus at bay.


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