The headlines around coronavirus may seem alarming, but that doesn’t mean you’re powerless to prevent it. Health officials emphasize that the common-sense things you can do to prevent more minor illnesses like colds and flu can also reduce the spread of coronavirus. Here are 15 habits to avoid that put you at risk.
People are stocking up on face masks, but health officials say the best thing you can do to protect yourself from coronavirus is to wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. If you’re not in the habit of washing your hands before you eat, after you use the restroom and after you’ve been out in public, it’s a good idea to get in that groove.
Studies show that most of us don’t wash our hands long enough to effectively remove disease-causing germs. Just running your hands under the tap won’t cut it. Experts advise washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before you rinse. If you don’t have access to water, use a hand sanitizer that’s at least 60% alcohol; cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
Experts say this habit ranks right up there with dirty hands for risk of contracting viral infections like coronavirus. Humans touch our faces constantly; one study found we do it 23 times an hour, on average. That gives a virus nearly two dozen opportunities to infect you every 60 minutes.
Touching the “T” zone—your eyes, nose or mouth—is the primary way illnesses are contracted. Be mindful, and stop doing it. Experts advise using a tissue to touch those areas, if necessary, or applying products that will reduce symptoms that encourage scratching or touching your face, such as moisturizer for dry skin or eye drops for itchy eyes.
Our phones are crawling with germs—understandably, as they touch our faces, fingers and random public surfaces all day long. And coronaviruses have been found to live on glass for up to four days. Disinfect your phone daily by parking it in a UV device, or wiping it down with a 50-50 solution of isopropyl alcohol and water, or disinfecting wipes.
A stealthy source of germs, elevator buttons get touched by everyone—potentially after they’ve coughed or sneezed on their hands. Experts advise punching the buttons with a knuckle, lessening the chances you’ll transfer germs to your face.
Shaking hands with someone who’s recently coughed or sneezed, then touching your face, is another efficient way to pick up germs. Until the coronavirus has run its course, people likely won’t mind if you propose a friendly fist-pump instead.
A good night’s sleep is crucial for keeping your immune system in top shape. Experts, including the National Sleep Foundation, say that getting seven to nine hours a night is essential. Anything less, and you could be putting yourself at risk for a variety of diseases.
People leave germs on public spaces you wouldn’t expect, particularly in the office. A research team at the University of Arizona was shocked to discover that the most efficient source of germ transmission in a typical office wasn’t the restroom—it was the office coffee pot.
These are another hotbed of germs. It’s a good idea to wipe them down with a sanitizing wipe before grabbing the handle.
Here’s a dirty secret about public restrooms: Air dryers aren’t more sanitary than paper towels when drying your hands. Research shows that air dryers actually suck germs out of the washroom air—including from places like the toilet—and blow them back onto your hands. Opt for paper towels whenever possible.
Studies show that during handwashing, soap creates a chemical reaction that removes germs from your hands more efficiently than water alone. Don’t use too little or too much, and rinse and dry thoroughly afterward.
Researchers have found that coronavirus can live for nine days on hard surfaces like door handles—far longer than the flu, which only lasts for about one. That’s why it’s especially important to wash your hands regularly, and push doors with your arm or elbow when possible. And no one will look at you sideways for using a paper towel to open the public-restroom door after you’ve washed your hands.
When you’re disinfecting your cellphone, take a minute to wipe down other frequently touched (but often overlooked) surfaces like computer keyboards, remote controls and light switches, all popular gathering places for germs.
Wash your towels frequently, and don’t let them hang around wet. Experts recommend washing them after two days of use, in hot water, with a bit of bleach or a product that contains activated oxygen bleach.
And to live your happiest and healthiest life, don’t miss these 100 Ways Your Home Could Be Making You Sick.