You might think you’re doing everything you can to stop COVID-19 in its tracks. But the virus is highly contagious, and although you have good intentions, some of your actions may be inadvertently increasing the spread. According to a study published in Science Daily, more than 10% of coronavirus patients who sought treatment were infected by people who didn’t even know they were sick. If you’re asymptomatic and going about your daily life, you could be unknowingly spreading the virus to those you come in contact with. Check out these 10 ways you may be spreading coronavirus so you can ensure you’re part of the solution.
Not Covering Your Mouth When You Sneeze or Cough
Because COVID-19 is a relatively new virus, experts and scientists are still analyzing all the ways it can spread. One of the most obvious ways the virus spreads from one person to another is through droplets released when you sneeze or cough.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an infected person who coughs or sneezes can spread the virus because “these droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.”
The Rx: Even if you don’t think you’re infected with the virus, it’s important to cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough. The CDC recommends bending your arm over your mouth and using the inside of your elbow. This ensures the droplets don’t end up on your hands, then on the items you touch.
Spending Too Much Time in Crowded Places
If you’ve been social-distancing and self-isolating for a while, the four walls of your living room are probably getting boring. But the more time you spend out in public, the more likely you are to unknowingly spread the virus or be exposed to it.
The Rx: Even if you’re bored to tears, it’s important to only go out in public when running essential errands, such as grocery shopping or filling up your gas tank. According to a study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO), “As COVID-19 is a newly identified pathogen, there is no known pre-existing immunity in humans.” This means anyone is susceptible to infection.
Traveling When It’s Not Essential
Traveling was a part of everyday life for many, so it’s a hard habit to break. But if you’re thinking of heading to your sister’s house two towns over or to your favorite organic grocery store in the city, think again. Traveling to different areas, even within your own state, may be what’s contributing to the rapid spread of the virus. If you’re infected with the virus but not showing symptoms, traveling to a different city or location may spread the virus to this new area, causing another cluster of infected people.
Using public transportation to get where you’re going is also a culprit for spreading COVID-19. The CDC warns, “Crowded travel settings, like airports, may increase chances of getting COVID-19, if there are other travelers with coronavirus infection.” This includes buses, subway cars, or train stations.
The Rx: Most local officials are urging residents to only travel when it’s truly essential. Staying within your neighborhood or town keeps the virus as contained as possible. Skip that trip to the city grocery store and stay nearby to stop the spread.
Touching Things in Public
If you’re at a grocery store or pharmacy shopping for your essentials, it’s impossible not to touch items. You have to pick out your necessities, touch grocery bags, and use the keypad on the credit card machine. But needlessly touching products and shelves may spread coronavirus.
If you have the virus and touch these items or surfaces, you may spread the virus to the next person who touches them, then touches their face. According to the National Institutes of Health, the virus is detectable for “up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.”
The Rx: When you’re out in public places, be conscious of where your hands are at all times. It’s impossible not to touch items when you’re grocery shopping, but try to minimize the contact you have with items and surfaces in the store. As soon as you’re done, wash or sanitize your hands thoroughly.
Standing Too Close to People
Social distancing guidelines suggest you stand at least six feet away from others in a public setting. These regulations are meant to stop the spread of the virus, because most droplets from sneezes and coughs can only travel up to six feet.
When the WHO analyzed how China’s social distancing guidelines affected the spread of the virus, it found that these regulations helped slow the transmission of COVID-19. The study found “strong evidence that non-pharmaceutical interventions can reduce and even interrupt transmission.”
The Rx: Follow social distancing regulations and stand at least six feet away from other people when you’re in public. Most grocery stores have set up markings on the floor to ensure you can easily adhere to social distancing guidelines. If you’re out walking around the neighborhood, take extra measures to social distance by stepping off the path when another person comes in close proximity to you.
Not Washing Your Hands Enough
The CDC has made it known that frequent handwashing is one of the best ways to slow the spread of coronavirus. When you have clean hands, you’re less likely to spread the virus, even if you’re unknowingly infected.
If you’re infected and you have germs on your hands, then you touch public door handles or products on grocery store shelves, you may be spreading the virus to these surfaces. People who touch these surfaces then have the germs on their hands and can become infected with COVID-19, which begins the spread to other people they come in contact with.
The Rx: Thoroughly wash your hands after you’ve spent any time in public. The CDC also recommends washing your hands before, during, and after eating or preparing food, when treating a wound, when caring for a sick person, or after you use the toilet. It’s also important to wash your hands after you sneeze, cough, or blow your nose.
Touching Your Face
Touching your face increases your risk for infection. Once you’re infected with coronavirus, you become a source that can spread it to other people.
When you’ve been touching surfaces or items that contain germs and potentially COVID-19, you have these germs on your fingertips. Touching your eyes, nose, or mouth gives these germs a way to enter your body and infect you with the virus. According to Dr. Dawn Becker from University of Florida Health, “Viruses that affect the respiratory system enter the body through mucosal membranes which are found in the nose, oral cavity and lips.”
The Rx: You may inadvertently touch your face when you’re stressed or not conscious of your movements. But when you’re in public, it’s important to refrain from bringing your hands anywhere near your face. You may think you’re safe at home, but if you just touched your car keys or cell phone, you may still have germs on your fingers. Only allow yourself to touch your face at home if you’ve just thoroughly washed your hands.
Not Disinfecting Your Home Regularly
If you’re not keeping your home clean and sanitized, you may be spreading the virus to other household members. If you were out and about, then came home and put groceries away or used the bathroom without washing your hands, you may have spread COVID-19 germs to your home’s surfaces. Without using a disinfecting cleaning agent or diluted bleach to clean these surfaces regularly, germs can easily be spread to family members who touch the same areas in your home.
The Rx: The CDC recommends wearing disposable gloves to disinfect your home. First, clean all frequently touched surfaces with soap and water. Then, use a household disinfectant cleaner or diluted bleach to wipe down the surfaces and kill bacteria. Let the solution stay on surfaces for at least one minute before rinsing or wiping off.
Not Using Hand Sanitizer
When you’re out and about running errands, it may be impossible to properly wash your hands. Sanitizing your hands in between trips can help stop the spread of coronavirus. After you’ve touched items in the store, the checkout conveyor belt, and credit card machine buttons, your hands may have been exposed to the virus.
When you get in your car, if you don’t use hand sanitizer right away to kill the germs on your fingers, you’re spreading these germs to other areas, such as your steering wheel and radio controls. Then you’re spreading these germs again to your next destination.
The Rx: While proper handwashing is always preferred, the CDC recommends using alcohol-based hand sanitizers when you don’t have access to hand washing essentials. Keep hand sanitizer readily available in your car and other places where you can’t wash your hands but may be exposed to germs. To ensure that it’s effective at killing the virus, only purchase hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Going Out When You’re Not Feeling Well
If you’re feeling under the weather, it may be allergies or a common cold. Or it may be a sign that you’ve contracted the virus. Either way, if you know you’re not feeling well, it’s a good idea to self-isolate.
If you have the virus, droplets from your cough or sneeze can easily infect people or surfaces around you, causing the virus to spread. If you laugh or talk too close to your loved ones, you can also spread COVID-19 to these family members, who then become hosts to the virus and keep the spread going.
The Rx: Use a grocery delivery service instead of going shopping on your own. Ask friends or family members to run errands for you and have them drop packages at your door. Stay away from other household members, especially those who are at higher risk for complications from the virus. If your symptoms include shortness of breath or fever, contact your doctor immediately.
And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 40 Things You Should Never Touch Due to Coronavirus.
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