Wash hands
Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

My Unproven Secret to Not Contracting a Virus in Years

Like many other people, I used to catch a variant of the common cold once or twice per year and suffer through an occasional bout of influenza — but since I employed a vigilant practice of hygiene regularly in my daily routine, I have found that I have not contracted a virus of any type in years.

My Unproven Secret to Not Contracting a Virus in Years

Whenever I had a cold, I never liked playing “nose hockey” at night when I am lying down in bed trying to sleep. You know — one nostril is clear to breathe while the other seems to be hopelessly clogged; and when I turn over to position myself in the other direction, both nostrils are clear for several seconds during the changeover until the other nostril seems to be hopelessly clogged.

That irritated me the most, as I believe that rest is one of the best ways to recover back to completely good health — but how can I rest comfortably if I cannot breathe?

Even weirder is that I cannot remember the moment when I felt better again every time I did not feel well. When I was able to finally get the rest I needed and take my mind off of the ailment which I was experiencing, I found that I was healthy once again — I was no longer coughing or blowing my nose or clearing my sore throat of phlegm — but I could never pinpoint the exact moment when that actually occurred.

I repeatedly read from credible and reliable sources that properly washing hands was the best way — or one of the best ways — to ward off viruses and other diseases…

…but I also read from those same sources not to touch parts of my face — specifically, the eyes, nose, mouth, and ears — with my hands in case I touched something which would contaminate them.

The problem is that — like most people — I was unaware of when and how I was touching my face. Was I rubbing my eyes? Did I scratch an itch on my nose? Those are two of countless examples of how we touch our faces subconsciously.

A Review of What You Should Do

You actually do have some control over the spread of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus — even if not everything is known about it yet; and even if your control is limited.

No vaccine exists to prevent contracting the 2019 Novel Coronavirus disease, as the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus; so if you need only one way to reduce your chances of contracting it, here it is — and it should be of no surprise to you as a reader of The Gate:

Wash hands
Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.


I have been espousing this advice repeatedly for years — to the point where some readers of The Gate have ridiculed me about it — but I vehemently believe that had people around the world washed their hands properly, the 2019 Novel Coronavirus would not have spread as much as it has; that it would have been better contained; and that no one would be worrying about it approaching pandemic status.

I intend to write a revised article pertaining to washing your hands properly and effectively, as I have not suffered from a virus of any kind in years — and no, you do not need to be obsessive or compulsive about constantly washing your hands either for a better chance to stay healthy.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases — including:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
    • CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
    • Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

In addition to the three videos pertaining to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus which have been released, the World Health Organization has a similar list of basic recommendations pertaining to protecting yourself from contracting the 2019 Novel Coronavirus — including:

  • Clean your hands properly, regularly and thoroughly with soap and water — or use an alcohol-based hand rub when soap and water are not immediately available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth unless you have just thoroughly washed your hands. Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus has a better chance of entering your body than at other areas of your body and can make you sick.

  • Maintain social distancing: stay at least one metre or three feet of distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. When someone coughs or sneezes, he or she sprays small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain a virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets — including the COVID-19 virus — if the person coughing has the disease.
  • Practice responsible respiratory hygiene by ensuring that you — as well as the people around you — follow good respiratory hygiene because droplets spread viruses. By following good respiratory hygiene, you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu, and the COVID-19 virus. Cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow; or use a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Once used, dispose of the tissue immediately in a proper receptacle.
  • Stay home if you do not feel well. If you have a fever, cough, and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention as soon as possible and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority. National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on the situation in your area. Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also protect you and help prevent spread of viruses and other infections.

The Little Trick I Employed Which Seems to Work For Me

Proper washing of hands has been known to reduce the chances of contracting a virus; but that alone was not enough if I wanted to further improve reducing my chances of contracting a virus. I had to somehow train my brain — and myself — to not touch my face under any circumstances except after I had properly washed my hands and I was confident that they were clean.

I am not sure how to better explain this; but whenever I touched something or someone with my hand, I considered that hand contaminated — and I had to somehow turn a switch on in my brain not to use that hand on my face until it was properly washed.

If you just handled something which was incredibly disgusting — like sticking your hand into a toilet in a public washroom which had not been flushed after it had been used, for example — would you eat something with that hand afterwards without cleaning it? Would you rub your eye with that hand afterwards without cleaning it?

Training and conditioning my brain to adopt this technique did not happen immediately; but my brain now applies the technique subconsciously and automatically as part of what now feels like an innate habit…

…and as a result, I have not contracted a virus in years — despite shaking the hands of people who were clearly ill; and despite having people cough, sneeze, and yawn on me without covering their mouths in enclosed crowded spaces such as aboard an airplane or subway car.


I may not have contracted a virus in years — but that does not necessarily mean I was not infected with a virus which I could spread to other people. That does not necessarily mean that the regimen which I have employed for myself is in and of itself the definitive answer to fighting off viruses. That also does not necessarily mean that I am not vulnerable to contracting a virus in the future — including the 2019 Novel Coronavirus…

…but I am a firm believer that if more people simply properly washed their hands and did not touch their faces when their hands were contaminated, the contraction of viral illnesses would potentially decrease.

The technique I employed may even be a placebo of sorts — my brain thinks it works, so therefore it does work? Perhaps that may be true. I simply might have been lucky.

When I wrote the following statement in this controversial article in which one of its points was that you have a better chance of dying from things that you do on a regular basis in daily life

I traveled to Asia during the swine flu scare in 2009. Nothing happened to me because I washed my hands properly.

…I was called out by two readers of The Gate regarding that statement. “The one issue I have is your contention”, colleen wrote in the Comments section of that article. “This statement is neither provable nor proven. I’m happy for you escaping unscathed, though.”

Also, Tony wrote that “To be fair you also stated things like, ‘I didn’t get the swine flu because I just washed my hands’. Is that fact based? You don’t know so it is conjecture on your part.”

They are both correct; and I thank them for calling me out on that statement. I indeed cannot definitely prove the correlation of adopting a regimen of washing my hands and not touching my face when my hands are possibly contaminated. Perhaps my immune system alone did the job for me and properly washing my hands had nothing to do with my not contracting the swine flu. I can only relate my unscientific — yet successful, in my opinion — findings based on my experience; and I want to share it with you if it helps you feel better overall in the future…

…so I will defer a challenge to you: would you consider adapting a similar regimen to the one I have imparted in this article in which you wash your hands properly and not touch any part of your face except after your hands have been properly washed? If you do, I would like to please know the results after a certain period of time elapses and see if contract fewer viruses as a result…

…and if the regimen which you newly employed does not work for you, you are no worse off than you were before.

At least trying it as part of your routine could not hurt — but you will never know unless and until you try…

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

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