All of our lives have been uprooted due to the coronavirus and our normal schedules are a thing of the past. With the stress of contracting this scary virus on your mind and your routine thrown out the window, you may rely on common day-to-day habits to make at least one part of your life feel familiar.
But some common habits need to be thrown out along with your sense of normalcy because they could put you at greater risk for contracting coronavirus. Check out these 15 common habits that may put you at risk for COVID-19 and make some changes to keep yourself healthy.
If you’re tired or get a small particle in your eye, it’s a natural reaction to rub your eyes with your hands. But in the age of COVID-19, it’s time to stop touching your eyes. Your hands may have touched surfaces that had droplets of germs, including those that can spread the virus. When you touch your eyes, you can easily become infected.
The Rx: Avoid your eyes at all costs, especially if you’re in public. According to Dr. Sonal S. Tuli from the University of Florida, “Consider wearing glasses more often, especially if you tend to touch your eyes a lot when your contacts are in. Substituting glasses for lenses can decrease irritation and force you to pause before touching your eye.” If you don’t wear glasses, put on sunglasses when you’re outside to avoid the wind blowing particles of dust or dirt into your eyes.
Whether you took a walk outside or just came back from running some essential errands, it’s important to take your shoes off as soon as you walk in the door. You may have stepped in someone else’s spit, gum, or another potential carrier of coronavirus. If you put your feet on the couch, a chair, or other furniture, you can spread these germs to the fabric. All it takes is a touch, then another touch to your face or mouth and you could contract COVID-19.
The Rx: Take your shoes off as soon as you get home from anywhere outside, even just walking around the neighborhood. According to Dr. Adwoa Danso, a general practitioner in London, “Most people already have a habit of taking their shoes off before entering their homes so I would encourage people to keep this up.”
It’s a habit we’re all guilty of: picking your nose. But with COVID-19 running rampant, picking your nose is not only frowned upon, it’s also dangerous. If you’ve been in public touching grocery store items, elevator buttons, or credit card machines, you may have germs on your fingertips, including those that could spread COVID-19.
Putting your finger in your nose allows your sinuses to absorb these germs, infecting you with the virus. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), coronavirus attacks your lungs and by giving it access to your nose, you’re making it easy for it to start wreaking havoc on your body.
The Rx: Keep your fingers out of your nose. If you really can’t break the habit of picking your nose, make sure your hands have been thoroughly washed before you start digging for gold.
Before COVID-19 started spreading throughout the world like wildfire, you wouldn’t have thought twice before sharing a milkshake with your friend or taking a bite of a loved one’s hot dog. According to Dr. Isaac Bogoch from the University of Toronto, “If people are sharing food, the virus may contaminate the food that they’re eating or on the fork or knife that they’re sharing. And that’s a perfect way to transmit this to other people.”
Your loved one may be asymptomatic and not even know they’re infected. Sharing food or drinks can transmit the virus to you. And you could experience more severe symptoms or you could pass the virus onto a high-risk person who experiences life-threatening complications.
The Rx: Keep your food on your plate and stop sharing, especially with those who you aren’t living at home with. If you want to share food, only do it at home and split the meal in half onto two separate plates before anyone takes the first bite.
If you’re usually a close talker who likes to throw in a few arm touches during conversation, these social distancing guidelines are going to be tough. But it’s important to break these habits for now and be sure you’re giving people space. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends staying at least six feet away from other people, especially if they’re coughing or sneezing.
Coronavirus is carried in the droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze and these droplets are estimated to fly at a maximum of six feet from someone’s mouth or nose. So if you’re talking closely, you’re putting yourself and the other person at risk.
The Rx: Standing far away from neighbors or friends as you chat feels awkward and impersonal but it’s essential to stop the spread of the virus. If you simply can’t break this habit, consider communicating with your loved ones through video chat or text messaging instead.
As soon as COVID-19 started becoming a worldwide health issue, one of the first pieces of advice released by experts was to stop touching your face. If you have germs that spread the virus on your fingers or face and you touch it, these germs may go into your mouth, nose, or eyes and cause you to become infected. A study published in the American Journal of Infection Control found that we touch our faces an average of 23 times per hour and 44% of these face touches involved contact with a mucous membrane.
The Rx: You may involuntarily touch your face without even thinking about it. If you’re in public, be cognizant of where your hands are and keep them away from your face at all times. At home, you can touch your face if you know your hands have just been thoroughly washed.
Being stuck at home and stressed out by the unknown of this virus can make you crave comfort foods. Ice cream, pizza, chips, and chocolate are foods you’re attracted to when you’re stressed out because you may think binging on these treats will make you feel better. But maintaining a healthy diet is important during a health crisis like COVID-19.
If you eat healthy, your immune system continues functioning properly so if you are infected, your body has a better chance to fight off the virus without experiencing complications. According to a study published in Nutrients, “Adequate and appropriate nutrition is required for all cells to function optimally and this includes the cells in the immune system.”
The Rx: Maintaining a diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and protein, and that’s low in fat helps your body to function properly. With the proper nutrients, your immune system remains strong and can help you fight off the coronavirus if you’re exposed to it.
If your hand washing habits involve simply splashing your hands under water, then grabbing the nearest towel, it’s time to make some changes. These handwashing habits simply won’t cut it now that the coronavirus is circulating. The CDC recommends that you lather your hands for at least 20 seconds with antibacterial soap. The soap traps germs that were on your hands and the water washes them away.
The Rx: Take the CDC’s advice and lather your wet hands with soap for an entire rendition of the “Happy Birthday” song. Rinse them thoroughly and dry them with a clean towel.
You already know that biting your nails is a bad habit that you should probably work on but now it’s considered dangerous. If you mindlessly bite your nails and your fingers are hosting germs that can spread the virus, you’re giving it a way to enter your body and infect you.
According to Dr. Elie Murray from Boston University School of Public Health, the virus only needs access to the lining of your mouth to spread. She says, “Anything you do to kind of help the virus get from the outside world into those moist parts of your face is going to increase your risk of catching the virus.” This includes biting your nails.
The Rx: It’s time to implement a strategy to stop biting your nails. According to a study published in the Iranian Journal of Medical Sciences, you can use your own self-control interventions, try habit reversal, or attempt to keep your hands busy. Try holding a small ball, chewing gum, or engaging your fingers with a writing utensil.
Since most stores are closed or crowded, many people are turning to home deliveries for groceries, food, and other goods. While this keeps you safe from encountering crowds at your local stores, it’s important to be cautious about packaging. It’s rare for your packages to contain germs that spread coronavirus. While the risk is minimal, it should be considered. Don’t open packages on your kitchen table or on any other shared surfaces.
The Rx: According to Dr. Miriam Alexander, with LifeBridge Health, the safest way to handle deliveries is to “open them outside of the house and actually throw the waste right in the recycling, and then bring the mail or the interior things of the packaging inside and I would probably then—after you open the mail, open the packaging—I would wash your hands very well with soap and water.”
In the past, you may have skipped out on the hand washing ritual before you ate or after you went to the bathroom. But now, hand washing is one of your best lines of defense against coronavirus and should be taken seriously. Any time you’ve been out in public or touched shared surfaces, it’s important to complete a thorough hand washing before touching anything in your home, your face, or family members.
The Rx: With the threat of COVID-19, you simply can’t wash your hands enough. In addition to washing your hands any time you’ve been in public, the CDC also recommends washing your hands:
- Before, during, and after you prepare food.
- Before and after caring for a sick loved one.
- Before and after treating a wound.
- After coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.
- After using the bathroom.
- After handling pet food or touching pets.
- After touching garbage or changing diapers.
Being stuck at home is no fun and if you’re used to running around town all day, it’s a hard habit to break. But it’s important to remember the more people you come into contact with, the greater your chances of contracting COVID-19. When you venture out to stores or other public places that are open and run errands that aren’t truly essential, you’re increasing your risk and making these areas more crowded, increasing other people’s risks for coronavirus.
The Rx: Follow the rules in your area and only leave your house for errands that are essential. When you are running essential errands, do your best to quickly and safely get what you need and get back home.
If you’re not a fan of cleaning, it may be out of character for you to wipe down surfaces in your home constantly. Even if you think you and your family members are being safe, cleaning and disinfecting your home is crucial to stopping the spread of the coronavirus.
If you or your household members have been running errands in public, you may have inadvertently touched a surface with germs that contain the virus. If you don’t wash or sanitize your hands thoroughly when you get home, these germs can transfer to surfaces that are frequently touched, leaving your home vulnerable to spreading the virus.
The Rx: The CDC recommends that you routinely clean highly-touched surfaces, including “tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.” Then, use a household disinfectant or diluted bleach to kill germs on these surfaces.
Now more than ever, failing to cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze is an extremely bad habit. While it may not affect whether you’re infected or not, it directly affects the people around you. If you’re infected with the virus but not showing any symptoms, your sneeze or cough droplets can infect others and they may not be so lucky with the outcome.
The Rx: The WHO recommends sneezing or coughing into your arm if you’re in a public place. If you’re at home, sneeze or cough into a tissue and promptly throw it away instead of placing it on a table or other surface in your home.
It may be impossible for you to avoid crowded grocery stores or a trip to the pharmacy, but it’s also important to be mindful about other crowded places. Your daily habits may have included a walk on your local nature trail or sitting by the lake and meditating every morning. But if these places are now crowded with people also trying to enjoy some fresh air, these are habits you may need to break. The more people you’re around, the higher your risk for contracting the virus.
The Rx: You’ll need to ditch the places you usually frequent near your home if they’re so crowded you can’t observe the six foot social distancing rule. If you really enjoy these spots, consider going during less popular times of the day, such as early in the morning. You could also take this time to explore your neighborhood and find other hidden gems, like a different walking path that isn’t as crowded.
And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 40 Things You Should Never Touch Due to Coronavirus.