You’re reading a ton of information about coronavirus (more specifically, COVID-19) and what to do while we’re in an active pandemic. Some of this info is spot-on; some of it’s utterly bogus; some of it changes every day; most of it’s scaring the pants off you. That’s why we’ve consulted the experts to compile this comprehensive list of the most important, science-backed things you can do to slow the spread. You might think you’ve taken every precaution, but keep reading and lower your chances of contracting the potentially deadly virus at all costs.
First of All, Don’t Panic!
Be prepared, be vigilant, be informed. But don’t be panicked. We will get through this together, even if we have to temporarily remain apart. Measures like the ones you’re about to read about have worked in China, where the virus first started (and where they recently logged a full day with zero reported new local infections), and South Korea.
Then Again, Don’t Think You’re Immune
At the same time, now isn’t the time to be complacent. If you’re young, you can still develop COVID-19 and serious complications—Millenials are being hospitalized—and spread coronavirus to people who are more vulnerable, like the elderly and immunocompromised, even if you’re symptom free.
We’ll Start With the Obvious: Don’t Forget to Wash Your Hands
This is the most important protection against COVID-19. Wash your hands after being out in public, after you use the bathroom, after coughing or sneezing, and before preparing or consuming food—basically, as often as is practical.
Don’t Touch Your Face
Germs are most often introduced into our body when we touch our eyes, nose or mouth, experts say.
Don’t Wash Your Hands for Less Than 20 Seconds
Anything less would be uncivilized—and will leave germs on your hands, experts say. Do it for 20 seconds or more, or as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday”—or the theme from Full House or the Imperial March from Star Wars. Whatever it takes to get you through.
Always Wash Your Hands With Soap
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—too much soap can prevent thorough rinsing of germs from your hands—and rinse and dry completely.
Don’t Sneeze or Cough Openly
Cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow—some call it “The Batman Sneeze”—or into a disposable tissue.
Don’t Touch Door Handles (If You Can Help It)
Researchers have found that coronavirus can live for two to three days on hard surfaces like door handles. That’s why it’s especially important to wash your hands regularly, and push doors with your arm or elbow when possible.
Adhere to Social Distancing Recommendations
Social distancing guidelines come from a place of knowledge—they’ve prevented other novel viruses (like the flu of 1918) from exacting an even greater toll.
Don’t Attend Large Gatherings
This week, the White House recommended that gatherings be limited to 10 people or fewer.
Don’t Go to Restaurants and Bars
Many localities have closed bars and restaurants to everything but carryout and delivery
Don’t Shake Hands
Not to encourage antisocial behavior, but now’s a good time to substitute a handshake for a wave or an elbow bump.
Don’t Hoard Face Masks
The CDC doesn’t advise that healthy people wear them. And buying up supplies may keep them from the people who really need them: Healthcare workers.
Don’t Hoard Food
There’s no need to panic-buy food. Officials from around the U.S. and world have said there is no shortage in the food supply, and grocery stores will be restocked.
Don’t Go to an ER Unless You’re Seriously Ill
If you have COVID-19 symptoms, it’s best to call your healthcare provider for advice. Don’t go to an ER unless you’re having trouble breathing; you might infect others there.
Don’t Drink Too Much Alcohol
It’s a scary time, but overindulging in alcohol isn’t the answer. Drinking too much can raise blood pressure and reduce immunity, two factors that could make you more susceptible to COVID-19 and complications.
Don’t Sleep Less
Sleep is a time when our immune system recharges, and a lack of quality sleep has been associated with other serious diseases. Aim for seven to nine hours a night.
Don’t Let Anxiety Take Over
If you’re feeling anxious, turn off the news and social media. Breathe deeply for a few minutes. Practice techniques that reduce anxiety and stress, including mindfulness, meditation and exercise.
Don’t Forget to Check in With Others
“Social distancing only applies to physical space, not all human connections,” said doctors from Johns Hopkins on March 17. “If you know someone who can’t go outside, like an older person, call them regularly.”
Don’t Stop Exercising
Even though gyms may be closed in your area, daily exercise is key to staying healthy. Luckily, working out at home is easier than ever, thanks to apps and sites like Beachbody, Openfit, Aaptiv and Fitbod. Several gym chains have online workouts too.
Don’t Eat Poorly
Stress eating could turn COVID-19 into the new version of the Freshman 15. Don’t let it; that will only compromise your overall health.
Don’t Share Bogus Information
We all want our friends, loved ones and community to stay informed about COVID-19, but make sure any information you share comes from major news sources, hospitals and health organizations like the CDC and WHO.
Don’t Totally Avoid Nature
Going outside during social distancing is “more than okay. It’s a good idea,” the Johns Hopkins doctors said. “Just keep your distance from others. Walking, hiking and biking are good. Contact sports are a no-no. Exercise is physically and mentally important, especially in stressful times.”
Self-Quarantine If You Suspect You’ve Been Exposed
This is key to slowing the spread of the virus, experts say. Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions.
Self-Isolate If You Suspect You’ve Been Infected
If you’re ill with COVID-19, it’s important to occupy a separate bedroom from other members of your family if you can, and avoid sharing towels, bedding, glasses, plates and silverware until you’re recovered.
Don’t Touch Shopping Carts
…without wiping them down with an antibacterial wipe, or washing your hands as soon as you get home, that is.
Don’t Touch Elevator Buttons
If you can help it, press these germ magnets with a knuckle or the side of your hand; it’ll lower the chances you’ll transfer
Don’t Stock Up on Simple Carbs
When you’re buying groceries, go for complex carbs, not white bread and flour, baked goods and processed foods.
Disinfect Your Cell Phone
Even in normal times, they can carry seven times more germs than the average toilet seat. Wipe them down with disinfectant daily.
Don’t Feel Helpless to Help Others
These are unforeseen circumstances, but staying at home doesn’t mean you’re powerless to help others. Michigan Health has a great list of things you can do, from donating to food and diaper banks to helping the homebound.
Don’t Forget to Wash Your Hand Towels
Experts recommend washing your kitchen hand towels after two days of use, in hot water, with a bit of bleach or a product with activated oxygen bleach.
Don’t Take Ibuprofen
Some European doctors have reported that taking NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as ibuprofen seems to make COVID-19 worse in some cases. They recommend taking acetaminophen (Tylenol) instead. This is controversial, but it’s worth asking your healthcare provider and following their advice.
Don’t Use Hand Sanitizer That’s Less Than 60% Alcohol
Experts say 60% and above is necessary to kill germs.
Don’t Skip a Vitamin D Supplement
Among other benefits, Vitamin D boosts the immune system.
Don’t Skip the Flu Shot
If you haven’t gotten one, it’s not too late. It won’t protect against COVID-19, but it will help protect you against the seasonal flu, which can have similar symptoms.
Don’t Let Your Blood Pressure Rise
If you’re on medication or a lifestyle-change regimen for high blood pressure, don’t discontinue them. High blood pressure has been associated with worse outcomes for people who contract COVID-19.
Don’t Skip the Veggies
As always, try to eat as many fruits and vegetables as possible—they contain vitamins, minerals and compounds that can boost your immune system.
Don’t Handle Cash (If You Can Help It)
Initial reports indicate that cash might help spread coronavirus. Pay with plastic whenever possible.
Don’t Touch a Public Screen Or Keypad (Without Washing Your Hands)
The checkout screens at grocery stores and keypads at banks and ATMs were notoriously germy even before the coronavirus outbreak. Bring a pen with you and use the non-writing end to press keys and give your signature.
Don’t Go to Religious Services
Right now is the time to avoid crowds in general. Attend services online, or in a virtual group hangout.
Don’t Use a Community Pen
Bring your own writing utensil with you anywhere you might need to use one—to the bank, doctor’s office or other essential places.
Don’t Blame Others
Viruses don’t belong to one country or discriminate about who they infect. Blaming one country or group of people for COVID-19 isn’t emotionally healthy or constructive.
Don’t Have Elective Health Procedures
A number of localities, including New York City, are canceling elective, non-essential health procedures to reserve resources for coronavirus cases. Ask your healthcare provider if any of your upcoming procedures are urgent or can be rescheduled.
Don’t Take a Cruise
Cruises have proven to be an effective vector for transmitting a number of viruses, including coronavirus. If you have one booked, now’s a good time to reschedule or choose another diversion.
Don’t Take Children to Playgrounds
While many parks and playgrounds remain open, playground equipment is rarely (if ever) disinfected.
Don’t Go Out When You’re Sick
If you feel ill, stay home.
Disinfect “High-Touch” Surfaces
Take a minute to wipe down other frequently touched surfaces such as computer keyboards, remote controls and light switches.
Don’t Pay $96.14 For a Bottle of Hand Sanitizer
Don’t encourage scalpers. Handwashing works better.
There will be time for establishing intimacy later. If you run into a friend on the street, try to stay three feet apart for the time being.
And Sorry About This One: Don’t Visit the Grandparents (or Your Grandkids) In Person
Older people are more susceptible to complications from COVID-19. Move any visits to FaceTime for the time being.
One Final Thought
If each and every one of us follow this simple checklist, we can get through this pandemic with fewer infections and fewer deaths. Please forward it to someone you care about, so they can do the same.
And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 50 Awful Health Habits Everyone Still Does—But Shouldn’t!.