Because your body hasn’t experienced the coronavirus before, you’re not immune. But that doesn’t mean you’re powerless. There are definite things you can do—and not do—to slow the spread and protect people who are most vulnerable. Here’s what experts say are some of the most common health mistakes that can cause coronavirus.
Not Taking It Seriously
This is no hoax. The coronavirus pandemic is a real thing, no matter where you live. People of all ages can become seriously ill with COVID-19, and you can spread it even without developing symptoms. Follow all official recommendations about social distancing and good hygiene practices to reduce the spread.
Not Washing Your Hands
If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times—and it’s worth hearing again. The best way to prevent coronavirus and other communicable diseases is to wash your hands. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends cleaning your hands often each day, particularly if you’ve been in a public place.
Not Washing Your Hands Long Enough
Remember: A simple rinse won’t cut it. Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, the CDC says, or if water isn’t available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
Coronavirus is mainly spread by respiratory droplets, which are produced whenever we sneeze. If you feel one coming on, tuck your nose and mouth into the crook of your elbow. Don’t sneeze into your hand; it could spread germs.
Not Covering Your Coughs
Likewise, a cough can transmit disease-carrying droplets; always cover your mouth (ideally with your arm instead of your bare hand).
Touching Your Face
Experts say this is the most likely path of coronavirus transmission—you touch something or someone who has the virus, then touch your face, where the virus can infect your eyes, nose or mouth. Hands off! If you’re a frequent face-toucher—and studies show most of us touch our faces up to a dozen times an hour—wash your hands frequently, and you might even want to wear gloves in public to break yourself of the habit.
Not Social Distancing
You can still go outside—just maintain a six-foot distance between yourself and another person. Why six feet? That’s the distance experts believe the virus can travel from someone who’s sneezed or coughed and infect others.
Touching Public Surfaces
The experts’ best estimate, at this point, is that coronavirus can survive on surfaces for days. In addition to limiting your trips to the most essential, bring hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes along, and wash your hands thoroughly as soon as you return home.
Being in Crowds
Don’t wait for officials to ban large gatherings in your area, if they haven’t already. The best course is to avoid big groups for the time being.
Going Out to Bars
These are already closed in many cities and localities, but it’s a good idea for everyone to shift their socializing online for the next several weeks. Look into a Zoom happy hour with friends.
Visiting Older People
It’s difficult not to maintain a regular visit with a loved one, but the CDC and other experts recommend that younger people avoid in-person visits with seniors at the moment. Our immune systems weaken as we age, making older people more susceptible to COVID-19. In-person visits are best done over phone or webcam for now.
Not Staying Home If You’re Sick
If you’re not well, stay away from public places unless you absolutely must go out for essential food or medical care.
Going to an ER If You’re Not Severely Ill
If you suspect you have COVID-19, experts recommend only going to a doctor’s office, urgent care or emergency room if you’re having trouble breathing. If you’re having milder symptoms, call your doctor or a telemedicine provider for advice. The issue is, if you go to an ER with mild symptoms but nothing that needs treating in the hospital, you could infect others.
If you think you’ve been exposed to coronavirus, it’s important to self-quarantine for 14 days to ensure you’re not infected (or as long as experts or your healthcare provider recommends).
If you’re infected with coronavirus, it’s important to a) stay home; and b) separate yourself from other people in your house. Use a separate bedroom and bathroom and wear a mask if possible, and don’t share dishes, bedding or towels until you’re recovered.
Hoarding Face Masks
As of now, the CDC does not recommend that people who are healthy wear face masks to prevent the virus. Stockpiling masks keeps them out of the hands of people we need to defeat the pandemic—our healthcare providers.
It’s time to suspend this common courtesy for the moment. Substitute a wave or elbow bump instead.
Hugging a Friend
Like handshakes, these are out for now.
Taking a Trip
Especially if you’re over age 60 or are immunocompromised, the CDC recommends avoiding all non-essential travel.
Going Out Before You’ve Recovered
If you’ve had COVID-19, the CDC says you shouldn’t leave home until three things have happened: You’ve had no fever for at least 72 hours, without the use of fever-reducing medicines; other symptoms like cough and shortness of breath have improved; and if at least seven days have passed since your symptoms first appeared.
Blowing Your Nose in Public
Blowing your nose into a tissue still runs the risk of dispersing germs. If you need to blow your nose, do it in private, and wash your hands thoroughly afterward.
Not Sanitizing Your Cell Phone
Our cell phones can serve as mobile germ repositories—some studies show they can be up to seven times dirtier than a toilet seat. Sanitize your phone with a disinfectant wipe once a day.
Picking Your Nose
Like watching Big Bang Theory reruns, it’s something we all do but none of us admit: Nose-picking. In fact, one study found that 95 percent of people do it. If there ever were a time to break yourself from the habit, now is it.
Rubbing Your Eyes
Springtime can bring seasonal allergies and itchy, watery eyes. Unfortunately, rubbing your eyes can also cause you to contract coronavirus if you have the bug on your hands. Use eye drops and allergy medication to keep your eyes itch-free, and if you must rub your eyes, do it with a tissue.
Not Wearing a Face Mask If You’re Sick
The CDC doesn’t recommend that healthy people wear face masks, but it does advise you do so if you’re sick. A mask will prevent droplets from coughs and sneezes from spreading.
Not Disinfecting Frequently Touched Surfaces
The CDC advises doing this daily, including “tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.” Most EPA registered products will work, the agency says.
Thinking It Can’t Happen to You
The coronavirus was originally described as a serious disease for older people. But people from their teens to forties are becoming ill, some seriously and needing hospitalization. Everyone is susceptible—and capable of passing the virus to someone else—and everyone should follow recommendations to stop the spread.
Not Considering Your Age
You might be extremely healthy, but if you’re over 60, you have a greater chance of experiencing coronavirus complications.
Not Considering Underlying Conditions
Conditions such as lung diseases, asthma, diabetes, heart disease or a compromised immune system can make you more likely to have complications from coronavirus. Take special care to practice preventative measures.
Visiting People With Compromised Immune Systems
If you know someone with lowered immunity, it’s especially important to avoid in-person visits for now. You can transmit coronavirus even if you’re not showing symptoms.
And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 50 Things You Should Never Do During the Coronavirus Pandemic.