As the Covid-19 epidemic (formerly known as novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV) continues to spread, the demand for essential healthcare items has hit an all-time high in Singapore. There are reports of face masks, hand sanitisers and health supplements selling out everywhere since mid-January. What can you do when basic healthcare items are out-of-stock? Here, we list several basic healthcare items along with their alternatives so you can protect yourself, save money and put your mind at ease. Let’s go back-to-basic!
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Common disinfectants contain active ingredients known to inactivate coronavirus (a virus type similar to SARS, MERS and Covid-19). Mixed with water, they can be used to wipe surfaces that are suspected to be infected such as the bedroom of a sick person or a crowded food court table.
While brand name disinfectants are flying off the shelves, you can consider other cleaning items with similar active ingredients. Multi-purpose household bleach such as Clorox, anti-bacterial kitchen surface wipes, and antiseptic toilet liquid cleaners can also work as disinfectants.
#TiqOurWord The active ingredients in disinfectants such as hydrogen peroxide can damage the skin, cause shortness of breath and dizziness. Read the entire label before using and only use the amount of liquid according to specification.
#2 Vitamins and minerals
Vitamins and minerals are needed for a healthy body to function properly. But supplements aren’t necessary if you maintain a balanced diet full of fruits and vegetables. Here are some vitamins and minerals that help fight off flu and how you can consume them without supplementation.
- Vitamin B6: Plays a major role in the immune system and production of serum antibodies. Get it from chicken, potatoes, chickpeas and tuna.
- Vitamin C: Antioxidant that fights free radicals in the body, prevents cells from oxidative damage and maintains the immune system. Get it from oranges, pineapples, capsicum and broccoli.
- Vitamin D: Other than maintaining bone health, the nervous system and hormone levels, it is proven to reduce the duration of flu and viral infections. Get it from eggs, mushrooms, salmon… or simply bask in the sun. Don’t forget your sunscreen!
- Magnesium: Decreases inflammation, relieves stress and regulates the body’s immune response. Get it from dark chocolate, avocado, spinach and other leafy vegetables.
- Zinc: Cell growth, wound healing, hormone balance and regulation of immune system. Also needed by our body’s natural killer cells (NK cells) which bind to infections and effectively killing them. Get it from red meat, seafood, shellfish and whole grains.
#3 Face masks
Learning from the 2003 epidemic of SARS, Singapore National Development Minister Lawrence Wong confirmed that Singapore has built up a stockpile of face masks over the years. Arguably one of the most essential healthcare items, these are to be used only during crisis and it should be enough for everyone if used responsibly. So there’s no need to panic! The government are distributing four face masks to every household. That means 5.2 million masks to 1.3 million households, islandwide.
#TiqOurWord You can find out more about the face masks, collection centres and volunteering work at the Singapore Government Agency Website information page.
#4 Hand sanitiser
Covid-19 is transmitted via moisture droplets. One can pick up the infection through touch, as stated by Professor Wang Lin Fa, the Head of Programme at NUS School of Public Health. Hence, it is good to sanitise your hands from time to time, especially when soap and water aren’t available. Below are some DIY alternatives you can try:
- Vinegar: 5% solution of white vinegar (the regular one you can find at grocery stores) kills 99% of bacteria. Just drip some on your hands, rub all over and wipe till dry.
- Tea Tree Oil: Antibacterial, antiviral, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory. That’s why it works so well against acne! Rub some on your hands and let it dry.
- Rubbing alcohol: Antiseptic solution typically used to clean wounds and can be found at retail pharmacies. Dab some on a piece of cotton and wipe your hands with it. It feels cold and dries instantly. However, please be considerate and only purchase what you need. Alcohol swab is a necessity for individuals who require regular injection such as those suffering from diabetes.
“I have none of these. Now what?”
When all else fails, follow the tips below to prevent yourself from infection during this critical time.
- Do not touch your face: “Your face is sacred,” as mentioned by Dr. Leong Hoe Nam, Infectious Disease Specialist. Since Covid-19 is transmitted through moisture droplets, it is best to prevent your hands from coming in contact with your eyes, nose and mouth. Remember to wash your hands with soap and water regularly.
- Stay away from crowded places: The more people there are, the higher the chance of spreading germs and diseases. In the meantime, avoid crowded food courts, social events, movie theatres and concerts.
- Curb your kiasu*-ness: It is in our best interest to be considerate to other fellow Singaporeans and avoid being selfish such as buying healthcare items in bulk, stocking up or reselling them at outrageous prices. Spreading fake news and inciting paranoia aren’t helping anyone either. It can cause hospitals to be flooded with people and prevent actual sick people from getting treatments.
*Kiasu = a Hokkien word that represents a selfishness that comes from the fear of missing out.
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