If news about the spread of coronavirus has you concerned, then take a proactive approach. There are many ways to stop coronavirus from spreading, and they're all simple things you can do every day. No, you don't have to start drinking hand sanitizer or anything (please don't do this).
For most people, coronavirus does not appear to pose a very serious health risk. "It is important to remember that 8 out of 10 people infected with coronavirus will have mild symptoms that will improve on their own," Betsy Koickel, M.D., Associate Medical Director of Northwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care, tells Romper. Plus, infectious diseases are nothing new. "To put it in perspective, influenza (the flu) kills 50 to 80,000 people in the United States each year and infects millions worldwide. Most people who are healthy do not suffer serious complications from the flu. The same will probably be true of coronavirus," as Dr. Georgine Nanos, a board-certified medical doctor and CEO of Kind Health Group, tells Romper.
Even if you aren't in a high-risk group for the coronavirus, however, it's still smart to practice good hygiene in order to slow its spread to others. It could be more concerning if someone with chronic lung or heart disease, immunosuppression, or cancer develops symptoms of coronavirus, Dr. John Schieffelin, a pediatric infectious disease specialist from Tulane University School of Medicine, tells Romper. So to keep yourself and those around you safer from this virus, here are some simple ways to stop the spread of coronavirus.
1. Wash Your Hands
This might be the most important tip of all. "Thorough handwashing for everyone in the family is critical," says Dr. Nanos. In fact, every expert mentioned the importance of hand washing specifically. "Wash your hands frequently, especially before eating or caring for your children," says Dr. Koickel. There's even a proper way to wash your hands, and this includes scrubbing them with soap for at least 20 seconds.
2. Wipe Down & Disinfect Hard Surfaces
Keep your home, office, and surrounding spaces clean, too. "Wipe down hard surfaces that harbor germs such door knobs and refrigerator handles, keyboards, and phones," says Dr. Koickel. Learn more about how to properly sanitize your home to keep your own corner of the world clean. (Some handy antibacterial wipes are definitely recommended.)
3. Stop Touching Your Face
It sounds like the easiest tip ever, until you realize just how often your hands drift up to your chin, eyes, or nose. "We touch our faces at least 200 times per day without noticing. Picking up coronavirus, among many other viruses, on your hands from a contaminated surface and then touching your face (particularly eyes, nose and mouth) is the most common to way to contract disease. Avoid touching your own face," says Dr. Nanos. Once you're more aware of the habit, it's honestly kind of difficult to break.
4. Stay Home If You Feel Sick
Take those sick days (if possible). "As with any illness, if you or your child are feeling sick, stay home and don’t expose others," says Dr. Nanos. It's best for the sick person, and helps prevent others from getting sick, too.
5. Wear A Face Mask If You're Out While Sick
Face masks are basically synonymous with coronavirus, but when should you really wear one? "If you need to go out in public when you’re not feeling well then it’s appropriate to wear a mask, otherwise they are not necessary," says Dr. Nanos. They aren't needed for everyday wear, and even the Surgeon General asked Americans to stop buying face masks.
6. Keep Up Other Hygiene Habits
Make sure your other healthy practices are still in place. "It’s not too late to be vaccinated for the flu which will look very similar to coronavirus," says Dr. Nanos. Not only will it protect you from the flu which kills half a million people every year, but it will also help doctors distinguish between the two diseases if healthcare providers know you’ve already been vaccinated by the flu." If you have any specific health conditions, then ask your doctor whether you need to take additional precautions against coronavirus.
7. Use Hand Sanitizer
Stock up on the stuff. "If you don’t have access to soap and water then use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer," says Dr. Nanos. Hand hygiene is so important right now.
8. Disinfect Your Phone
Don't forget about your phone, either. "Probably the most important thing and the hardest to remember is disinfecting our phones as often as we wash our hands," says Dr. Nanos. "They are usually the most contaminated item we have in our possessions." A cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol, or a commercially available phone wipe, is all you need to disinfect your phone throughout the day.
9. Use Bluetooth Or Speaker On Your Phone
Along these lines, try not to put your phone up to your face when taking a call. "Phones present an extra risk because we keep them so close to our face as well, so I recommend using a Bluetooth headset as much as possible to keep it away from your face," says Dr. Nanos. Going hands-free may be good for your health.
10. Use Good Cough Hygiene
Cough considerately. "Use good cough hygiene: cough into a tissue or your elbow and then wash your hands," says Dr. Schieffelin. It's a simple way to stop viruses from spreading. Although the news about coronavirus can be concerning, there are definitely some simple habits you can use to protect your health.
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here, and Bustle’s constantly updated, general “what to know about coronavirus” here.
Betsy Koickel, M.D., Associate Medical Director of Northwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care