[Q&A] Some answers to respiratory infection (including the Coronavirus)

Here’s a list of questions and answers I put together with the ENT specialists at Sanvic. This list of questionnaire is applicable to coronavirus (COVID-19), influenza (flu), and cold



  1. What is coronavirus?
  2. What is respiratory disease?
  3. How does infection begin?
  4. How are coronavirus or respiratory disease transmitted?
  5. Can the coronavirus spread in air?
  6. How to prevent the transmitting?
  7. What to do if someone next to me cough or sneeze?
  8. What’s the proper way to cough and sneeze?
  9. How to improve our body’s immune system against the virus?
  10. Is wearing a mask necessary?
  11. Why some officials are calling public not to wear mask?
  12. Can the mask be cleaned if contaminated?
  13. Can the mask be reused?
  14. Symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), flu, and cold
  15. Is having hand sanitizer necessary?


Q1: What is coronavirus?

A1: Coronavirus is a type of respiratory disease, means the virus attacks and cause damage to our respiratory tract.


Q2: What is respiratory disease?

Q2: Respiratory disease are diseases that attack our respiratory tract, common symptoms are coughing, running nose, stuffy nose, breathing difficulty…etc.


Q3: How does infection begin?

A3: Because it is a “respiratory” disease, the virus must enter our respiratory tract in order to initiate its attack; meaning it cannot just penetrate through our outer skin. The gateways to our respiratory tract are our nose, mouth, and our eyes. Nose and mouth are obvious because we breathe through them; as for the eyes, well, turns our that our tears are generated through nasolacrimal duct, which is connected to our nasal cavity. Therefore, if the virus gets into our eyes, then it could travel through the nasolacrimal duct to our nasal cavity and enter our respiratory tract.


Q4: How are coronavirus or respiratory disease transmitted?

A4: The coronavirus transmits mainly through respiratory droplets from an infected individual, or physical contact with infected surface or objects.
Respiratory droplets are typically from sneeze and cough. When one sneeze or cough, the high pressure could spread these highly infectious droplets into the air up to 2 meters (6.5 feet) away. That’s why it’s very important for anyone to sneeze or cough into a tissue paper or their elbow. Respiratory droplets could also happen from some people who spits when they talk (may not be noticeable), while the range is about half of sneeze or cough, it’s an area that’s often overlooked.
Another less obvious but highly transmissive way is through physical contact with infected surface or objects. Depending on the type or surface and the environment (temperature/humidity), the coronavirus can stay alive from a few hours up to several days; much longer than typical influenzas/flu. While a healthy individual may not encounter anyone in-person who cough, sneeze, or spit talk, that healthy individual could still get transmitted by touching a door knob, an elevator keypad, or a paper bill that’s been exposed to an infected person many hours or few days ago. Hence, wash hands frequently!


Q5: Can the coronavirus spread in air?

A5: It’s highly unlikely that the coronavirus spread in the air besides the respiratory droplet transmission mentioned above. Unless someone is coughing or sneezing near you, or talking close-up to you, the air that you are breathing is fine and you shouldn’t worry (unless you are in a crowded confined space). Respiratory droplet that contains a large amount of the virus will fall due to gravity, therefore, once you are outside the range of a cough or sneeze, the concentration of virus in the air will spread out to a very low and insignificant amount and can be safely ignored. The air we breathe day to day always contain some level of germs or virus, but because the amount is very low, our immune system eliminates them easily and comfortably without us noticing. Only in situation where we are exposed to a high concentration of virus that overloads our immune system and breaks through our first line of defence, we then start seeing symptoms.


Q6: How to prevent the transmitting?

A6: As mentioned earlier, coronavirus is a type of respiratory disease because it attacks our respiratory organs, having skin contact with the virus does no harm, infection only starts if virus get into our respiratory tract. Therefore, if we can block off the virus from entering our respiratory tract, we are safe.

1. Wash hands with soap
Wash hands frequently, and before you tough your nose, mouth or eyes with our hand. Doorknob, elevator buttons, stair handles, bills, table surface, are all things we and many others touch during the day, we never know if these object or surface have been exposed to someone infected. So if there’s active virus on the surface, you touched it with your finger and later toughed your eyes, nose, or mouth without washing your hands prior, then you’ve effectively sent the virus straight into your respiratory tract. Washing hands frequently also prevents carrying the virus from an infected surface/object to other clean surface/object.

Wash hands = wash with water and soap for at least 20 seconds, and dry with paper towel afterwards. Use the paper towel to turn off the faucet and open the washroom door to avoid contact.

2. Social distancing
Avoid the crowd, keep distance, hold breathe, wear mask if necessary.
Since we cannot control how other people cough or sneeze around us, avoid being in a crowded place can help minimize exposure to the bacteria and virus from respiratory droplet. Try to keep some distance, at least 1 meter (3 feet) when speaking with others to avoid spits that may come out during talking.


Q7: What to do if someone next to me cough or sneeze?

A7: If another person sneeze or cough adjacent to you, immediately hold your breath and turn your head away from that person to avoid exposure; start breathing again after the cough and sneeze have stopped or after you are able to move further away. If you take elevator, try to take a deep breath before entering the elevator, and hold your breath until the door opens again.

Hold your breath when you are walking past someone who may be sick.

In situation where there’s large crowd in an enclosed space with potential infected people, like in a hospital or where someone is coughing and sneezing, wearing a mask is the best way to help avoid direct contact with the virus. If you don’t have a mask and in event where you cannot hold your breath throughout, try reducing your breathing to minimize amount of air that you inhale; using the methods taught in AirwayFit program for example.


Q8: What’s the proper way to cough and sneeze?

A8: Always cover the nose and mouth with your inner arm/elbow when you sneeze or cough. Not covering your nose and mouth is very irresponsible and putting everyone nearby into danger. Covering with your hand is also dangerous because the virus will now be in your hand and anything you touch before washing your hands will be infected. Whoever that touches the same surface or object that you touched will now carry the virus with them.

Below are two photos of Japan’s prime minister making coughs during a talk couple weeks ago. The first one shows the incorrect way of covering his cough, and the second one he got it correct!

japanese prime minister cover cough with handjapanese prime minister cover cough with sleeve


Q9: How to improve our body’s immune system against the virus?

A9: We get exposed to virus all the time, whether that’s the coronavirus or others. At the end of the day, it’s up to the strength of our body’s immune system to determine whether we get infected or not, and if we do, how fast do we recover from being sick.

All comes down to having a healthy living habit, that is, having a healthy diet, regular exercise, don’t stress, have enough sleep, don’t smoke…etc.

But I will throw in a few more points:

  1. Keeping your body hydrated with constant water intake will help your airway (the first line of defence) to fend away the virus.
  2. Keep your mouth closed and breathe through your nose. Our nasal cavity provides filtering mechanism to block virus from entering further into our respiratory tract; a function that is wasted if you breathe through your mouth.
  3. Like washing hands, using nasal irrigator to rinse nasal cavity everyday after returning home can help your nasal cavity to remove the landed virus more effectively.


Q10: Is wearing a mask necessary?

A10: Short answer is no, but it depends.
You probably don’t need one if:
You are healthy and are not exposed to people showing symptoms, then you are fine without a mask. However, do try to avoid being in a crowded place and try to keep some distance with others; especially if you see or hear people coughing and sneezing around you.

You should wear one if:
You are sick, or you will be exposed to high risk environment such as hospital, or any confined crowded place where you cannot avoid people coughing or sneezing adjacent to you. Hence, might be a good idea to keep one on you just in case.

There’s no need to accumulate a whole lot of masks, but if you can find some at reasonable cost, get a couple just in case.


Q11: Why some officials are calling public not to wear mask?

A11: Here’s a fact, when all else’ being equal, wearing a mask will definitely lower chance of infection, period.
Here’s another fact, mask supply is significantly below demand.
Therefore, from a holistic point of view, it’s more important that the general public don’t start panic buying the masks, so there’s enough masks for people who needs them the most (healthcare professionals and patients).


Q12: Can the mask be cleaned if contaminated?

A12: No.


Q13: Can the mask be reused?

A13: Strictly and ideally speaking, no; however, with the massive mask shortage, let’s be more practical. Except for visiting a hospital as that’s the highest risk environment, in other places where no others cough or sneeze near you, the mask you wore is likely not contaminated and reusable. Therefore, even if you wear the mask everyday, unless you’ve been exposed directly to others cough or sneeze, you likely only need 1 or 2 mask a week.


Q14: Symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), flu, and cold

A14: See this diagram below from World Health Organization (WHO)

compare symptoms difference between coronavirus and flu and cold




Q15: Is having hand sanitizer necessary?

A15: While it’s convenient to have one on hand in case you don’t have immediate access to a washroom, the most effective way to remove the virus from your hand is still through washing your hand with the good old soap.


Feel free to share with anyone you think that may benefit from these information!


Feel free to leave a comment below for any clarification to any of the questions and answers above, or if there’s questions you have that you’d like to be answered!

One response to “[Q&A] Some answers to respiratory infection (including the Coronavirus)

  1. Thanks so much. I'm from Brazil and very worried that it seems big part of our population it's not taking this seriously, besides the health ministery talkings everyday on TV. I think the planet is trying to awake us. But only the listeners will listen. Hard times!

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