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Hand Sanitizer, Caution Musts in ‘Most Important Flu Season of Our Lifetimes’

As the storm of the scariest cold and flu season in American history approaches, it’s important for all of us to remember a proven, hopeful truth: COVID-19 has a proven Kryptonite and its name is alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

As America readies to fight the terrifying double-trouble tandem of COVID-19 and influenza this fall, having hand sanitizer at the ready has never been more important. The stakes have never been higher.

“This will be the most important flu season of our lifetimes,” U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams told a U.S. Senate hearing on Sept. 9. “Less flu and fewer hospitalizations will help conserve precious healthcare resources.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes, “germs are everywhere,” especially in the United States, whose health has been compromised coast to coast by high COVID-19 infection and hospitalization rates. When soap and water are not available, 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizers, which have been proven to kill COVID-19 on surfaces, are our best personal defense against the puzzling pandemic of many faces, which has claimed the lives of nearly 200,000 Americans as of mid-September 2020.

“I’ve never seen an infection with this broad range of manifestations,” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in July.

Medical News Today’s James Kingsland writes, “In the absence of a vaccine or effective antiviral drugs, hand sanitizer is a mainstay of efforts to prevent the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes COVID-19.”

The Miami Herald reports a new CDC study by Energy Infectious Disease shows “provides reassurance that store-bought sanitizers combat the virus.”

“Any household cleaner containing bleach or at least 70 percent alcohol should kill SARS-CoV-2,” Hartford Health Care concurs.

And with a COVID-19 vaccine still weeks or months away, hand sanitizer is a must hand hygiene and healthcare product Americans need to have at the ready and use when they are out and about, especially when:

  • Before and after visiting a friend or loved one in a hospital or nursing home
  • After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
  • Before and after visiting your children’s school
  • Before and after visiting a store where you may touch products or objects

But we have to be on guard wherever we go.

The Surface Threat

With science proving COVID-19 can live on surfaces and objects, we all need to more aware than ever of what surfaces we are touching this flu season.

“When we’ve tested hospitals where they treat COVID-19 patients, we find the virus on the floors as well as the shoes of doctors and nurses who walk on them,” the Salt Lake City Tribune’s Andy Larsen writes. “We find it on computer mice used by staff. We find it on the sickbed handrails and in the restrooms patient use. It’s on the window ledges and doorknobs, patient cellphones and remote controls.

“You get it. The stuff is everywhere.”

While COVID-19 surface transmission is rare, the CDC confirms a simple touch of an infected surface can lead to acquiring the virus.

“It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes,” the CDC writes.

The Common Cold vs. COVID-19

The public uneasiness that the COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed on the country will undoubtedly grow more severe this fall with the arrival of what the WHO warns could be an extremely fierce cold and flu season. With the common cold and flu and COVID belonging to the same general respiratory virus family, millions of worried Americans will be wondering this fall if they are weathering the common cold or COVID.

“As the autumn flu season approaches while the COVID-19 pandemic continues, cold-weather sniffles are likely to provoke even more anxiety than usual,” The Wall Street Journal’s Alina Dizik stresses.

“Some symptoms of flu – as well as colds and other autumn ailments – are similar to COVID’s, making it harder to know what’s wrong. Fever, dry cough, fatigue and body aches are common with both the flu and COVID.”

When in doubt, call your doctor. But here are ways doctors say we can recognize the difference between a cold and COVID.

Potential Signs of COVID

  • Stronger, Sudden Symptoms 5-7 Days After Exposure
  • The Development of a Fever Before A Cough
  • Chills and Major Discomfort (even with a low fever)
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Pneumonia
  • Continued Fever
  • Loss of Taste or Smell
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Headaches
  • Sore Throat

Common Flu Symptoms

  • Fever, Dry Cough, Fatigue and Body Aches 1-4 days after exposure
  • Wet Cough
  • Sneezing and a Stuffy Nose

Unfortunately, there is no one telltale differentiator between a cold and COVID-19.

“There is no one very distinguishing feature,” Eva Cheung, M.D., a pediatric cardiologist and critical care specialist at New York Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital and Columbia University Medical Center, told The New York Times.

The one known critical difference between the two viruses: COVID symptoms begin with a fever, followed by a cough.

“For seasonal influenza, it’s typically the opposite – people generally develop a cough before a fever,” Business Insider’s Aria Bendix writes.

‘Err On Side of Caution’

So in this most uncertain of cold and flu seasons, we must think smart and practice smart hand hygiene practices 24/7. Playing it safe, smart and healthy is a game plan guaranteed to give us and our families the best chance of staying healthy during the scariest and most dangerous cold and flu season in American history.

“The overarching advice is that you just have to err on the side of caution,” Dr. Cheung stresses.

America’s overall health depends on how well we take care of ourselves and each other during this coming two-barreled virus storm.