In a world where, quite suddenly, handshakes have been replaced by elbow-bumps, employees are instructed to work from home, and Americans are told not to board cruise ships or long-distance flights, what best practices can massage therapists implement during this age of coronavirus to stay healthy, serve clients and keep their businesses’ doors open?
The coronavirus (COVID-19) is deadly serious. As of March 9, almost 114,000 cases and almost 4,000 deaths had been reported worldwide; 423 cases and 19 deaths had been reported in the U.S.
A coronavirus is transmitted from animal to human and can cause a cold, severe acute respiratory syndrome or other illnesses. The term novel coronavirus “refers to a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans,” according to the World Health Organization.
According to experts, strict cleaning procedures, including frequent, thorough hand-washing and sanitizing surfaces, are necessary to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. Many people are choosing to limit face-to-face communication, with meetings, conferences and school classes canceled across the globe. Health-care workers are at risk of contracting the virus. “Is massage therapy safe in the midst of a coronavirus epidemic?” asked massage-and-pathology educator Ruth Werner, BCTMB. “Frankly, we don’t know.”
Safety Procedures: 5 Things
This list of five safety procedures to put in place immediately was provided to MASSAGE Magazine by Werner, author of A Massage Therapist’s Guide to Pathology, 7th ed.
1. Handwashing is the first, foremost and fiercest protection from spreading this infection. As massage therapists, we probably wash our hands more than most people. Doesn’t matter, do it more. Step up your handwashing game, and you’ll have the added benefit of limiting COVID-19, flu and other hand-borne cooties in your world. (Read “Prevent the Spread of Coronavirus & Other Pathogens.”)
2. COVID-19 typically isn’t easily spread through airborne particles. Instead it is more likely to be transmitted through touching contaminated surfaces and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
What this means is we can demonstrate our dedication to hygiene and safety by cleaning not only our table and massage equipment, but also our doorknobs, light switches, cellphones, keyboards and anything else we or our clients touch. (Maybe do it so that clients can see you in action. This not only shows them you know how to take care of your environment, it may also prompt them to take similar actions with their own environments.)
3. COVID-19 does not appear to cause serious disease in most younger people who are fundamentally healthy. For people with autoimmune or chronic lung problems, this is a different situation.
The best option for now is to ask clients to reschedule if they or anyone in their circle of acquaintance are sick. Consider not charging for this rescheduling—that is just a disincentive for people to tell you the truth.
4. Take excellent care of your own health. This is not the time to push your limits for getting enough sleep or eating healthy food. Invest in your own wellbeing so you can be the resource your clients need.
What Not to Do: 3 Things
According to Werner, this is what not to do:
1. Don’t panic. It doesn’t help anyone, least of all your clients.
2. Don’t use face masks, they don’t help, unless you’re sick already. And if you are, stay home and away from others.
3. Don’t neglect your own health and self-care.
According to the CDC, coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath, and may appear two to 14 days after exposure.
Effective Cleaning Procedures
Properly cleaning your treatment room can make a significant difference in the health and safety of your clients, said Hastings.
“In addition to standard between-client cleaning tasks such as providing fresh linens and blankets, wiping your table and appropriate tools,” she said, the following areas should also be included in your sanitizing procedures:
• Door handles inside and out; toilet handle; faucet
• Hot towel cabinet door
• Product containers
• Massage stool
• Light switches
• Cell phone/iPad/computer
“In addition to thorough hand washing between clients, it is a great idea to ‘gel-in’ upon entering your treatment room and prior to placing your hands on the client,” Hastings said. “Clients will appreciate this extra step and will be encouraged to ‘gel-out’ before leaving.”
Also just to let you know in the next month or so, I will be relocating and will give you the updates to put on the web.