This week the Government took the first move to lift the lockdown by encouraging some people to return to work, and allowing people to exercise more outdoors and meet individuals from other households. Although coronavirus remains in the community and continues to be very contagious, it is believed that with social distancing and regular hand washing or sanitising, the risk of contracting Covid 19 can be effectively eliminated. However, staying 2m from others and keep your hands clean is not always easy for wheelchair and mobility scooter users, who are often restricted to defined paths and routes.
Peter Axelson, from Beneficial Designs, explains how 40 years of wheelchair experience has taught him how to best avoid catching colds and flu, and this same advice can be used to help avoid coronavirus. Peter has created a guide for wheelchairnetwork.org, to help wheelchair and mobility scooter users keep safe when leaving the house.
It is believed that the two most common ways for coronavirus to spread is through direct inhalation of infected water droplets when somebody coughs or sneezes, and by touching something that has the virus on it, and then touching your face. So the two best ways to reduce risk of catching it is to avoid inhaling air that has been contaminated by means of social distancing, and keeping your hands clean to prevent risk of passing from hands to face.
Wheelchair users have to take extra special care for two reasons. Firstly, when people cough and sneeze, water droplets drop to the ground, but as a wheelchair user is closer to the ground they can be more exposed that others. But more importantly, a wheelchair’s push wheels can become contaminated. The tyres can pick up virus bearing particles and moisture from the ground and transport it to your hands very quickly.
So, here are the key ways to avoid catching coronavirus.
Keep Your Hands Clean
Washing your hands as soon as your complete a journey in your wheelchair is extremely important, as it is very possible your hands will pick up the virus from the ground you are travelling over. Wash your hands with soap for 10-20 seconds and/or use a greater than 60% alcohol-based hand sanitiser whenever you return home from ANY activity that involves locations where other people have been. Using a fingernail brush is a good idea for those of us that have really rough skin from pushing our wheelchairs for so many years.
Peter’s experience has proved to him that regular hand washing and sanitising greatly reduces the risk of catching colds and flu. He says, “because my hands are always touching the handrims on my wheelchair, I use anti-bacterial wet wipes to clean my hands before eating. Using hand wipes
prior to meals, regardless of where I am, has reduced the amount of colds and flu I have contracted over the past 20 years.”
Peter doesn’t touch his tyres at all, always using only the good quality handrims, to avoid the need to touch the tyres.
Wheelchair gloves can help, but as Peter points out, the gloves will become dirty are harder to keep clean than bare hands, which can quickly be washed and sanitised throughout the day. Always have hand sanitiser gel and wet wipes with you
Keep Your Wheelchair Clean
You should wash your wheelchair as often as possible. Peter’s tip is to have a washcloths at home and after washing your hands, soak them in soapy water (or use wet wipes) and then push your wheelchair around by sliding the clothes over the rims.
Covering 20 feet is the equivalent of wiping the rims 3 times. If you’re in a public bathroom, you can spin the wheel on the spot a few times while wiping the rims. Then do the same with the tyres (this should be the only time you propel yourself using the tyres).
Also wipe down your seat, armrests, backrests and footrests. If you have an attendant, they should keep the push handles clean too, especially if more than one person is likely to push you. Also clean brake handles and the foot supports, and then wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.
This is a very important step, as the coronavirus can survive for more than a day on hard surfaces, so a chair that is carrying it will potentially infect you, even after you have returned home and washed your hands.
Social distancing is vital, so make an effort to keep as much distance from other people. If anybody sneezes or coughs near you, the water droplets will literally rain down on you.
2m is the minimum distance, ideally keep more space around you at all times, and avoid crowds especially.
As well as avoiding coughs and sneezes, you should consider wearing a face mask to avoid the droplets of spit that people often accidentally send out when talking to you. A face mask is really designed to stop people spreading infection outwards, but for wheelchair users they can help prevent droplets landing on your face too.
Wheelchair users do require the cooperation of others too, as it is harder to maintain social distancing in a wheelchair, because you cannot easily move onto a grass verge to step into the road like pedestrians can.
Keep Your Home Clean
As well as keeping yourself and your chair clean, clean grab bars, door handles and other items you regular touch. If when you first arrive home you are carrying the virus on your hands, you can quickly spread to other parts of the house before you get a chance to wash your hands. To be extra safe, which is recommended, use a hand sanitiser before you enter your home, to try to be as clean as possible before touching your front door and grab bars.
If you take all these precautions you can greatly reduce the risk of catching any virus, so adopting these methods permanently will reduce the number of colds you catch, as well as hopefully avoiding Covid 19. And if you need a new wheelchair for 2020, head over to our wheelchair department to discover the latest models.