We haven’t learned everything there is to know about the coronavirus, or COVID-19 as it is now classified. But there are some straightforward guidelines from medical professionals and health agencies on avoiding catching or spreading the virus.
1. Wash your hands… well and often
You’re probably not washing your hands long enough or well enough. Even nurses, doctors and other medical professionals get trained, tested and re-tested to make sure they’re not skipping important parts of proper hand washing techniques. Here are tips from the CDC on proper technique:
- Wash your hands with soap and water (just rinsing doesn’t cut it).
- You don’t have to use any fancy soap labeled as “antibacterial”. Regular soap of any type will do, if used properly.
- Use soap to remove dirt and germs from all parts of your hands for at least 20 seconds. In the past, the tune to the “Happy Birthday” song has been used as a self-timer, but there are lots of other great songs or even just song refrains you can use to help gauge the time, like the refrain to Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” or Toto’s hit “Africa”.
- Make sure to scrub areas that are often missed, like thumbs, nails and between fingers.
- Dry your hands using a clean cloth (which should be laundered often), a clean paper towel, or air dry them.
Want to have fun reminding friends, family, and coworkers about washing hands? Try putting up one of these new CDC posters promoting the practice.
2. If you can’t wash, use hand sanitizer
Alcohol-based hand sanitizer is a good germ killer, especially if you can’t get to some soap and water. There have been shortages at some stores, so if you’re out of sanitizer, don’t panic. (In fact, not panicking is a great tip in general.)
The CDC recommends using a sanitizer that’s at least 60% alcohol to be effective.
3. Avoid touching your face with your hands
It can be a hard habit to break, but we often rub our eyes, nose and even touch our mouths with fingers that can spread contamination. It’s easy to forget and unknowingly do this throughout your day.
Jenny Gross writes in the New York Times that you can try to hold on to a tissue, identify triggers that lead you to want to itch your nose or eyes and lower your stress level to reduce face-touching habits.
4. Avoid shaking hands with people
Meetings and greetings might be changing during the coronavirus outbreak, but it’s a small price to pay to keep your hands clean. Everyone in the room will understand if you make an excuse and greet them enthusiastically instead with a head nod.
You might avoid the issue by moving some in-person meetings to phone or video conferences. This would avoid the spread of germs, as well as letting businesses continue with important meetings and gatherings.
5. Avoid being around people who are coughing and sneezing
Simple crowd avoidance can help you not come in contact with germs, but it’s even more important to avoid groups when one or more people in the group are sick. Some businesses have been pulling out of conferences and big meetings in order to keep their workforce healthier, other gatherings have been cancelled altogether.
In general, authorities are encouraging the public to stock up on sick supplies to allow folks to stay home sick and not go to public areas like grocery stores and spread the illness. You might also encourage friends and coworkers to stay home while sick as well, and not spread germs around the office.
6. Disinfect sick rooms and high-touch areas
If you do get sick, it’s best to try and avoid spreading your germs to your family and coworkers. Isolating yourself at home if you get sick can be a good way to lessen the spread of germs. Plan now for how you might be able to rest and recover, or work from home if you can and choose to do so.
You’ll also want to make sure to clean and disinfect any surfaces or items that a sick person might come in contact with, like doorknobs, tables and chairs. Also take care to clean items like remote controls, phones, desks, keyboards and more. Need more details on how to do it right? Try these protocols for cleaning and disinfecting from the CDC.
At the very least, virus season should be a good opportunity to disinfect items we use in our daily lives that often get neglected when it comes to our regular cleaning regimen.