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I am a caregiver for a cancer patient, what safety measures should I take?

As a caregiver for a patient with cancer, perhaps you are wondering how to protect your loved one from infection and, more specifically, from the new coronavirus (COVID-19). COVID-19 germs are spread in the same way as others germs, like the common cold: by direct contact with someone who has the virus; touching contaminated surfaces and then touching our eyes, nose or mouth; inhaling the little drops produced by someone with the virus when they exhale, sneeze or cough.

What can we do to protect our loved ones from COVID-19 and other contagious diseases? Ana Garnica, supervisor of Continuing Nurse Education at MD Anderson Cancer Center Madrid, gives four recommendations for caregivers:

  1. Wash your hands carefully and often

 “Washing your hands carefully and often is the most important thing anyone can do to prevent spreading germs”, stresses Ms. Garnica. It is fundamental you wash your hands with soap and water and that you scrub your hands all over (the palms, the backs, between the fingers, around the cuticles and under the nails) for at least 40 seconds before rinsing. If you’re not sure you’ re washing for long enough, you can try singing the song ‘Happy Birthday’ three times.

Germs spread very easily in contact with other people, so we must substitute a handshake, hug or a kiss with something else, like touching elbows, another hand gesture or smiling.

  1. You can’t wash your hands? Don’t touch anything

If you can’t use soap and water at any given time, you use hand sanitizer. Apply the gel generously and rub you hands for 20 seconds making sure you cover all hands completely. Then, let your hands dry. Resist the temptation to dry off excess gel with a towel - it takes 20 seconds for the gel act.

If you can’t find anywhere to wash your hands and you don’t have access to hand sanitizer, do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth with your hands until you are able to wash your hands properly.

  1. Prevent: don’t be a source of infection

If possible, stay at home and if you must go to work every day, keep your distance from others, at least a 1 or 1.5 meters.

If you develop any symptoms or you suspect you may be infected with coronavirus, be a good citizen and avoid passing the virus to others. Self-isolate in another room and don’t have any contact with people you live wit for at least 14 days.

  1. Follow some basic rules of hygiene at home

Where you become infected or not, you must get into the habit of cleaning surfaces at home. Germs can be anywhere: on a handrail, door handles or knobs, elevator buttons, on shop counters and so many other objects we touch all day, every day.

That’s why it’s important to disinfect the objects and surfaces we touch often like light switches, computer keyboards, door knobs/handles, telephone receivers/handsets, the fridge, faucets or toilet seats, etc. Disinfecting can prevent people from becoming infected. “We must use the same principles to prevent infection as we do for the common cold as for coronavirus”, explains Ms. Garnica. “Wash your hands often, avoid getting too close to people who are infected and disinfecting surface we come into contact with – these are the best ways to prevent infection”.