And You Thought Your Elbows Were Useless or Your 4th Line of Defense Against the Coronavirus


Unless you can do this …

I’ll always remember how I was suspended once – after my elbow, as if acting on its own, hit the other kid right under the left eye, landing him on a school floor in the fetal position and me in the principal’s office in deep trouble. In my defense, I really, really didn’t want to part with my lunch money that day, and besides, back then I wasn’t quite the pacifist I am today. I don’t remember if it was 6th or 7th grade, but I’m sure my mom still does as she gave me all the hell in the world in the next 3 days I stayed home.

Since then I’ve had no direct use for either of my elbows. Of course, like all people I need them so my arms can function properly. But unlike fingers, or fists, or palms, or even wrists, which are capable of making direct contact with all kinds of objects, as well as other parts of my body, the elbows seemed to me to be good for nothing like that. Ever tried to use an elbow to scratch your nose?


Fast forward to the brave new world

I’ve always been fascinated by virologists. Even before COVID-19, watching movies or documentaries about those amazing people handling all kinds of lethal germs in settings where a slight mistake can cost them their life or endanger thousands or even millions of others – my goodness, what kind of training do they have to undergo to become so unfailingly disciplined and organized?

I couldn’t do that. Seriously, I couldn’t, and I doubt any layperson could.

4 lines of defense against the coronavirus

Since the coronavirus has several “distribution” paths, it means we have several lines of defense against it.

The first line of defense against the coronavirus is staying home. Like this heroic doctor said, “The virus can’t infect those it never meets.” In our case, both my wife and I have to take care of our elderly parents, so this is not an option. We go out every day.

When we can’t stay home, we can try to avoid getting close to other people, but that’s not always possible either, which is why we need to wear masks. That’s the second line of defense. When everyone in close settings (like a store) wears a mask, it considerably lowers the risk of infection.

Then, there are surfaces, and surfaces are tricky. Everything you bring home from the outside world can be infected, including your hands. The virus stays on different kinds of surfaces for different periods of time. Here is the most recent study I’ve found (“U” means undetected).

4th line of defense against the coronavirus -- how long the virus stays on surfaces

It’s troubling how long the coronavirus can be detected on masks

It should help when you disinfect plastic bags and containers you bring home, like in this doctor’s video (although don’t forget to wear gloves when you use chemicals). That’s our third line of defense against the coronavirus.

However, you can wash your hands 10 times a day or more, but can you really trust yourself to unfailingly follow this protocol every time, day in and day out? To never touch anything with your hands without washing them right after? To disinfect everything you touch and forget nothing – your keys, your wallet, your phone, your doorknobs, your light switches, the rails inside your home or apartment?

This is where our fourth line of defense comes into play. When you avoid touching your nose, eyes, and mouth with your hands, the virus can’t get in your respiratory system even if it’s on your hands. Easy, right?

Unfortunately, not so easy. This study shows that:

On average, each of the 26 observed students touched their face 23 times per hour. Of all face touches, 44% (1,024/2,346) involved contact with a mucous membrane, whereas 56% (1,322/2,346) of contacts involved nonmucosal areas. Of mucous membrane touches observed, 36% (372) involved the mouth, 31% (318) involved the nose, 27% (273) involved the eyes, and 6% (61) were a combination of these regions.

So, if you can’t always trust yourself to remember not to touch your face with your hands, then anything that can reduce the risk is worth trying – wouldn’t you agree?

It’s simply amazing what your elbow can do

It’s interesting how quickly people get used to things they would’ve found utterly ridiculous just a few weeks ago. Since you can trust your elbow to never touch your face, you can use this part of your anatomy as a valuable safety tool. Here I asked my daughter to demonstrate.

The lights.

Elbow light switch: your 4th line of defense against the coronavirus

The faucets.

Elbow facet: your 4th line of defense against the coronavirus

The doors.

Elbow door handle: 4th line of defense against the coronavirus

Of course, a new routine is only good as long as your family members can take it. At some point you finally drive your wife over the edge with your paranoia, and she does this. She might’ve meant it as scorn, but I think it’s genius!Touchless

Sure, something in you may die when you look at this picture, but porous paper gets free of virus in a matter of hours. I guess we all have a choice.

Too much? Tell me and don’t hold your punches.

And please, please, please do share your personal paranoid safety tips. 🙂

Featured Image: Parswa Bakasana

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I’m super isolated now and I plan to use a lot of supplements once I start mixing back into the world. When I do though, I think those cabinet ties are a great idea. Good to see you writing again

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