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.
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.
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.
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.
Germs are most often introduced into our body when we touch our eyes, nose or mouth, experts say.
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.
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.
Cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow—some call it “The Batman Sneeze”—or into a disposable tissue.
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.
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.
This week, the White House recommended that gatherings be limited to 10 people or fewer.
Many localities have closed bars and restaurants to everything but carryout and delivery
Not to encourage antisocial behavior, but now’s a good time to substitute a handshake for a wave or an elbow bump.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
This is key to slowing the spread of the virus, experts say. Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions.
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.
…without wiping them down with an antibacterial wipe, or washing your hands as soon as you get home, that is.
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
When you’re buying groceries, go for complex carbs, not white bread and flour, baked goods and processed foods.
Even in normal times, they can carry seven times more germs than the average toilet seat. Wipe them down with disinfectant daily.
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.
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.
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.
Experts say 60% and above is necessary to kill germs.
Among other benefits, Vitamin D boosts the immune system.
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.
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.
As always, try to eat as many fruits and vegetables as possible—they contain vitamins, minerals and compounds that can boost your immune system.
Initial reports indicate that cash might help spread coronavirus. Pay with plastic whenever possible.
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.
Right now is the time to avoid crowds in general. Attend services online, or in a virtual group hangout.
Bring your own writing utensil with you anywhere you might need to use one—to the bank, doctor’s office or other essential places.
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.
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.
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.
While many parks and playgrounds remain open, playground equipment is rarely (if ever) disinfected.
If you feel ill, stay home.
Take a minute to wipe down other frequently touched surfaces such as computer keyboards, remote controls and light switches.
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.
Older people are more susceptible to complications from COVID-19. Move any visits to FaceTime for the time being.
Although times can be scary, try to engage in self-talk that’s positive and constructive. “We’ll get through this” and “I’m doing the best I can” are two good examples. They may sound corny but they really work.
Your plate may be full of remote work and caring for a partner, children and other family members. But it’s important to allot regular time for yourself, whether it’s exercise, meditation, indulging in a favorite TV show, reading a book or taking a long bath.
Using TV news as background noise, or constantly checking news sites, may not be helpful and can lead to anxiety. Pick a reputable news site, and check in briefly once or twice a day.
Create a checklist of things you’d like to get done, and hold yourself to it each day.
Get up and go to bed at a regular time. Wake up, shower, get dressed as if you were going to work or heading out. Eat well—and regularly—and exercise. Start work at the same time each day, and have an end of day—don’t just keep working all night.
Create a work-from-home space for yourself; your own desk, if a whole room isn’t available. It’ll help you maintain a routine and stay focused.
When you’re working from home, don’t let it expand to fill your entire day. Give yourself a lunch hour and at least two 15-minute breaks.
If you’re working from home with a spouse and/or children around, establish clear guidelines about when you’ll be available and when you must concentrate on work.
If you work on a team, check in with your boss and/or co-workers at an established time. It’ll help you keep focused and targeted and will be good for your mental health.
The executive director of UNICEF recently shared this tip on social media: As things worry you throughout the day, write them down, and put the list aside. Then give yourself a few minutes a day to look over the list and worry. Then put those things out of your mind. It’s an effective strategy for reducing free-floating anxiety.
This time-tested therapy for anxiety and depression can be especially helpful now: Each day, write down three things you’re grateful for that day. They can be as basic as the roof over your head or the food you have to eat.
Predictions about the economic repercussions of COVID-19 can be alarming. But remember that none of us has a crystal ball; we don’t know how things are going to turn out. They could be much better than predicted.
“Don’t put your adult’s brain into a child’s brain,” advises Dr. Joyce Mikal-Flynn, who works with trauma survivors. Be a calming presence, and if a child asks you a question, “answer that question and just that question–don’t go overboard. Then ask, ‘Is there something else you want to ask me?'” Make it clear that asking questions is always OK, and if you don’t know the answer, you can look it up together. Shutterstock
Don’t concentrate on speculation or rumors—and unfortunately, a lot of news reports right now are one, the other or both. Focus on facts about COVID-19, how it spreads, how serious it is, and where we are by reading the latest updates on the CDC and WHO websites.
When you call or video-chat with friends and family, be open and share your worries about the current situation. But don’t let that be your entire conversation. Talk about something great on TV, a book you’re reading, a meal you’ve cooked or pop-culture nonsense—anything to get your mind off coronavirus for a minute.
Unfortunately, now is the time to give the dating apps a rest for a little while.
As you disinfect your home, be aware of the ingredients of and warnings on the products you buy, and follow any listed instructions.
You might be tempted to spray yourself down after a trip outside. “Do not do this. There is no fine line — it is a bad idea,” cleaning expert Jolie Kerr told Vox this week. Disinfectants like Lysol can be harmful if inhaled, and their ingredients can cause skin irritation or burns. Wash your hands thoroughly instead; it’s your best protection.
Cleaning products with ammonia should never be mixed with bleach, and vinegar should never be mixed with products containing hydrogen peroxide, says Kerr. The combinations can create gases that are harmful to the eyes, nose and respiratory system.
It’s not necessary to disinfect your mail or cardboard packages before you open them. Just wash your hands thoroughly after touching them, and dispose of them outside your home if possible.
Children are not at higher risk for coronavirus, the CDC says. But they can still become ill or transmit the virus to more vulnerable people.
The CDC recommends teaching kids to do the things you’re doing to reduce spread of the virus: Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, stay home if you’re sick, clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily, and launder items according to manufacturer’s instructions, in the warmest possible water.
This is not necessary, the CDC says.
The CDC recommends that playdates and group outings should be minimized for the time being, as well as any visits with older adults like grandparents.
The most important thing to tell children about COVID-19 is that you’ll do everything possible to keep them safe, says Karen Swartz, MD, a psychiatrist with Johns Hopkins Medicine. Their anxiety levels may be high because of news and social media, and this reassurance can go a long way.
Older children should reschedule non-essential travel to crowded areas, the CDC says.
Stress increases the level of cortisol in the body, a hormone that can inhibit the immune system.
This is an especially important time to practice good sleep hygiene to ensure you get quality rest. To avoid insomnia, avoid looking at laptops, tablets and cellphones for a few hours before turning in.
Feeling overwhelmed can lead to stress and panic, which taxes your immune system. If you feel like things are getting to be too much to handle, give yourself a time-out. Do some relaxation exercises or a pleasurable activity that you enjoy.
Drinking water isn’t a miracle cure for COVID-19, but it has plenty of benefits, from moistening mucous membranes to improving metabolism. Aim to drink five to seven cups of water a day.
If you’re feeling anxious, take a moment to concentrate on your breath. Breathe in for a count of four, then slowly release the breath for another count of four. Repeat until you feel yourself begin to relax. It’s simple but one of the most effective anti-anxiety exercises around.
For a few hours before bed, read a book, meditate, listen to music—anything but check the news. It’ll be there in the morning.
Laughter reduces stress, eases tension, improves circulation—and studies show it can also reduce inflammation and bolster your immune system.
The CDC currently advises against non-essential plane travel for older adults. It’s a good idea for everyone.
See if you can schedule telemedicine sessions for any doctor’s appointments you can’t miss. In fact, many doctors nor prefer this, given the contagiousness of COVID-19.
If you don’t have a designated person to reach out to in an emergency, now’s a good time to establish one. That contact can apprise caregivers of any essential information and contact other family members in the event you need care or are hospitalized.
A Florida politician recently claimed that blowing a hairdryer up your nose can cure coronavirus. Shockingly, this is not true. Be skeptical about any folk remedies circulating online. Follow the advice of your healthcare provider and reputable health organizations.
Stressed about sharing space with a partner all day and getting on their nerves? Swartz recommends picking a specific time of day to discuss any areas of conflict briefly, then concentrating on avoiding arguments for the rest of the day.
If you’re flying solo, take this time to connect with other people who live alone. Swartz suggests using a program like FaceTime or Zoom to hold group chats, start a virtual book club or movie discussion group.
Sometimes we have to force our minds away from negative thoughts, like changing the channel, says Swartz. For example: Instead of thinking “this is a disaster and things will never be the same again,” think, “This is a challenging time, but we’ll get through it.”
Think of some things that make you happy—it could be a great memory, an event, a family member, a comedian or cute cat videos. Whatever those are, keep them at top of mind. When you feel yourself getting stressed or anxious, replace those negative thoughts with positive ones.
Getting enough sleep is important for maintaining your health. But don’t overcorrect and hibernate in bed; that can lead to depression.
To reduce stress and anxiety, take this time to reconnect with things you enjoy doing but might have let fall by the wayside—whether it’s reading, crafting, writing, listening to music, looking at art online or working on things around the house.
They only cure bacterial infections. COVID-19 is caused by a virus, and antibiotics won’t clear it. Only take antibiotics on the advice of your healthcare provider.
Don’t believe online rumors that colloidal silver is effective against coronavirus. In fact, on March 9, the FDA warned seven companies to stop selling silver products they claimed cure the coronavirus.
This week an Arizona man died, and his wife became seriously ill, after the couple ingested chloroquine phosphate, an additive used to clean fish tanks. President Trump had touted the antimalarial drug chloroquine as a potential coronavirus cure.
A widely circulated internet rumor claims that drinking hot water will kill the coronavirus. This is not true. The disease affects the respiratory system, not the digestive tract. Do, however, get plenty of fluids, when you’re healthy and anytime you’re sick.
No vitamin or supplement has been proven to combat COVID-19. And taking high doses of various vitamins can have side effects that range from minor (stomach irritation) to serious (toxicity). Instead, eat a nutritious, well-balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables to bolster your immune system.
One online rumor maintains that drinking or inhaling liquid iodine can be a COVID-19 remedy. This is not true. What’s more, the practice can be seriously harmful.
Because it will. This is a chapter in history, not the rest of your future.
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.
All Rights Reserved for Michael Martin March