COVID-19: Have we become overly fearful of touching door handles?

Since the pandemic hit our hands have never been so washed or so sanitised.

Some are even taking it to the extreme, finding unique ways to avoid touching door handles.

But is the infectiousness of Delta making us all overly fearful of communal surfaces?

Some of us are now social distancing our hands from handles. There's a range of styles - the sleeve, the elbow - even the knuckles are getting a rare workout.

For the highly cautious any part of the body is being used - just not the hands.

This extra caution tracks back to when the pandemic started when we were told the virus could live on surfaces for several days.

"That meant that we were telling people to be extra cautious about what they touched," microbiologist Dr Siouxsie Wiles says.

Last year it was revealed a maintenance worker at Auckland's Rydges Hotel got COVID after using the same lift as a guest who was also positive.

At the time it was reported the virus came from the lift button. But Dr Wiles says the understanding of how the virus spreads has changed.

"What we know now is that the virus is predominantly spread through the air," she says.

"And while it’s still a really good idea to be washing your hands - that protects you from all sorts of things - what we really need people to remember is the shared air in closed spaces that’s really important for transmission.

"And we have really good tools to stop transmission as well as the vaccines - that includes wearing masks and that includes ventilation."

She says COVID's spread through air has been proven in many studies and also in situations in MIQ.

"We've had a few cases where for example somebody's door was open just for a few seconds and that's been enough for air that one person was breathing out from their room to move into another person's room," Dr Wiles says.

So given COVID-19 is predominantly airborne are these manoeuvres necessary?

"For those people who are more vulnerable - someone like me is never going to say don't treat this cautiously - treat surfaces cautiously because we just don't know whether that is zero chance. It's a very very low chance, but it's never zero," Dr Wiles says.

"I would say for COVID the really important thing is still washing your hands - we know that’s important for lots of viruses and bacteria. So I would still do that."

So while opening a door with your leg may be overkill, perhaps opening then sanitising your hands afterwards is more normal.

Sign up to receive news updates

By entering your email address, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Newshub and its affiliates may use your email address to provide updates/news, ads, and offers. To withdraw your consent or learn more about your rights, see the Privacy Policy.