By Dr. Patrick Jean-Pierre MD
COVID-19: At this point, it feels like it’s all anyone can talk or think about. It’s on the news twenty-four-seven, it’s all over our social media feeds, and it’s making us all more anxious. And now, with some states relaxing their social distancing guidelines, many people are even more nervous about community transmission. With no vaccine and no proven treatment (yet), going back to life as we once knew it feels scary. Thankfully, although there’s no 100% effective method of preventing infection (other than total isolation), we do know how to avoid coronavirus. Check out these best practices for keeping yourself, as well as the people you encounter, safe and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
That brings me to a very important point: how to avoid coronavirus with proper handwashing techniques. Sure, it’s (hopefully) something you’ve been doing several times a day for most of your life, but are you doing it correctly? Here’s a quick refresher course on how to wash your hands well enough to kill any coronavirus particles on them:
Here are two things you can worry less about, per the CDC: acquiring an antibacterial soap and scalding your hands with hot water. Antibacterial soap won’t kill viruses, including COVID-19. And the temperature of the water you use doesn’t seem to make a difference, so use whatever feels most comfortable. You may want to keep a pump bottle of hand lotion handy for after these frequent washings, as they can dry your skin.
Check out this helpful video tutorial on proper handwashing technique:
During the pandemic, practicing good hygiene in public includes wearing a face mask and using hand sanitizer. Of course, it would be easier to adhere to these guidelines if hand sanitizer were easier to come by! Until the shortages are resolved, try this recipe for DIY hand sanitizer. It’s simple and quick, and you can use essential oils for fragrance if you like.
The CDC and other experts have strongly recommended that we all wear face masks and practice other safety tips while in public to avoid coronavirus. Some places have chosen to require face masks, like doctors’ offices, supermarkets, and other businesses. You can buy an inexpensive one online, or you can wear your own homemade face mask. Note that you shouldn’t try to acquire an N95 respirator or surgical mask, as we should reserve those for healthcare workers on the front lines. Children under the age of two and anyone who has trouble breathing should not wear a mask.
You should avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth when removing your mask. Toss it in your washing machine for a cycle before wearing it again. You can let it hang to dry if you don’t need to wear it again right away.
Experts call COVID-19 the “novel” coronavirus because it is new to us. Because there are still so many scientists who don’t know about it, safety recommendations are changing all the time. While it can be tempting to go off the grid when the headlines are so gloomy, it’s important to stay informed about coronavirus and how to avoid transmitting it.
That doesn’t mean you need to make yourself anxious by reading or watching every news story. And there certainly is nothing wrong with avoiding people’s panicky Facebook posts. Self-care is more important than ever right now, and the twenty-four-hour news cycle adds to our collective growing anxiety. So while it’s a good idea to give yourself a regular coronavirus update, don’t immerse yourself. Review the newest safety and health recommendations … and then go do something else that helps keep you centered.
It’s difficult to navigate our lives these days, maybe more so than ever before. Remember to take it one day at a time and to listen to the experts. In other words, keep calm and wash your hands! You’ve got this.