There are hundreds of things you can do to limit your exposure to viruses and bacteria. They can't all be listed here. In general, use common sense, and touch as few things as possible. Wash frequently, stay home when you are sick, cover your cough, and understand how the infection chain works. Individuals making the effort to break the chain add up to a collective effort that will make a huge difference for everyone!
Jump to section:
- Cleaning and Disinfecting
- Health and Safety Products
- Nutrition and Exercise
- Personal Hygiene
- Mental Health Resources
- Additional Resources
Cleaning and Disinfecting
In addition to the guidelines you’ve been hearing about -- cough/sneeze into your elbow, wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, staying home when you are sick (or now as much as possible), etc. But there will be times when we need to go out, whether for errands, work or other reasons. The following are additional tips and advice that will help you prevent exposure to viruses and bacteria while out in public.
Here are some tips and considerations for when you are out in public that will go a long way toward protecting you against colds and flus, including COVID-19:
- If you handle cash, wash your hands often. Monetary currency typically has more viruses and bacteria on it than most items.
- Never touch your face or items like telephones or keyboards, after handling cash, until you wash or sanitize your hands first.
- Clothing - Most people don’t wear the same clothing more than once or twice between washings. But how about your jacket, gloves, hats, and other clothing items?
- When you are out and someone coughs or sneezes on you, or if you touch a surface with your coat or other clothing that someone recently coughed on, those germs can stay on your coat and other clothing long enough to infect you or someone else in your household or work area.
- Launder your outerwear often, and consider taking it off before you enter your house.
- Consider changing out of your clothing when you get home, and having separate clothes for home and for going out.
- Don’t wear the same clothing from day to day if you go out.
- Gloves - Wearing gloves while out-and-about is one way to avoid touching door handles, telephones, railings and other items. However, keep in mind to:
- Clean your gloves frequently, or dispose of them
- Never use your gloved hand to touch your face.
- Everything you touch with your gloved hand will get the same contamination on it that you would touch with your ungloved hand.
- With some common sense about disinfecting and not touching things, you can protect yourself without gloves just as well as you would with gloves.
- Phones - Your cell phone might be one of the most contaminated items you own. It picks up germs from your hands and face, and when you set it down on desks and tables.
- Clean your cell phone regularly, and sanitize your hands before you touch it to keep it that way.
- Get in the habit of not allowing telephones to touch your mouth and ears. Hold telephone handsets slightly away from your face.
- Wash your hands after using a telephone.
- Consider not setting your phone on unsanitized surfaces, such as restaurant tables and bars, other people’s desks, etc.
- Personal Pen
- Carry a pen with you, and use it when signing credit card slips or filling out forms.
- This way you won't have to use a pen at a counter that hundreds of others have touched.
- Use your pen to operate touchpads at stores as well.
- Restrooms - Don’t touch anything that isn’t necessary, especially AFTER you have washed your hands.
- When in a restroom stall, use a piece of toilet paper or paper towel for touching the door and flush handle. This goes for urinal flush handles, too.
- Before washing your hands, operate a manual paper towel dispenser to get the amount of towels you need ready. That way you won’t have to touch the dispenser after your hands are washed.
- Use paper towels to turn off the faucet.
- Avoid touching your face or any other part of your body until after you’ve washed your hands. This applies to when you are not using public facilities as well. Try to get in the habit of not touching your face during the day.
- Use soap, and scrub thoroughly, for at least 20 seconds. Touching the soap dispenser is okay, because you are washing your hands immediately after.
- If the restroom door opens inward, using a paper towel to open it is a good idea. Many people don’t wash their hands in the restroom, so touching the door handle after washing your hands can contaminate them.
- Use your foot or elbow to open outward-opening doors (in restrooms and other places as well).
Health and Safety Products
- Disinfecting Wipes - Keeping disinfecting/sanitizing wipes with you is about killing the germs that you've accumulated on your hands between hand washings.
- Keep some sanitary wipes in your work area. Wipe your desk, telephone, chair arms, computer keyboard, mouse, laptop, and other items you touch frequently.
- Keep some wipes and sanitizer in your vehicle and wipe your steering wheel, shifter, door handles, and other surfaces you touch frequently.
- Clean the door handles and railings in your home, and maintain a generally sanitary living space.
- Hand Sanitizer
- Carry hand sanitizer with you, keep some at home and in your workspace.
- Use sanitizer before you get into your car or enter your home, and before you touch anything when you enter your workspace.
- If you sanitize before you enter those spaces, you will be less likely to bring contamination with you, and this will help to create “germ-free” spaces for you.
- If you’re sick, wearing a mask is a great idea, and will help to prevent you infecting others.
- The CDC recommends that people who are caring for infected people, or others who are routinely within six feet of those who are known to be sick and coughing or sneezing, to wear a mask
Nutrition and Exercise
Most people recover from the flu and other viruses without treatment. Your body’s immune system will fight off viruses, and in many cases do it so well that the viruses are defeated before you ever develop symptoms. This only happens if you have a healthy immune system, however.
- Exercise - A healthy respiratory system helps to promote immunity as well. Try to get 20 minutes of cardiovascular exercise three times per week, such as vigorous walking, biking, or swimming.
- Hydration - Make sure you drink lots of water. Staying hydrated helps keep your immune system functioning at a high level, and it also washes viruses and other contaminants that are in your mouth down to your stomach, where many of them are eliminated by your stomach acid.
- Nutrition: Eating the right foods will support your immune system and general health so that you will be less susceptible to diseases caused by viruses. Foods to focus on include:
- Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- Lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, and nuts
- Avoiding saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt, and added sugars.
Viruses can live on and in your body before they cause harm.
- Bathing regularly and brushing your teeth can remove viruses before they enter your lungs, where they will do the most harm.
- These activities will also help to prevent the spread of viruses to other surfaces where they may later get onto you or someone else and enter the lungs.
Mental Health Resources
Given the anxiety-inducing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are many online resources available to help address the impact on individuals' mental health.
- Centers for Disease Control (CDC) - Mental Health and Coping During COVID-19
- Child Mind Institute - Talking to Kids About the Coronavirus
- The Jed Foundation - Tips for Self-Care and Managing Stress
- Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) Responding to Trauma and Tragedy
- National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) - Mental Health Support And COVID-19
- National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) - Health Crisis Resources
- The National Child Traumatic Stress Network - Parent/Caregiver Guide to Helping Families Cope with the Coronavirus Disease 2019 - available in English, Spanish and Chinese
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
- CDC - Reducing Stigma around COVID-19
- NASP - Countering COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Stigma and Racism: Tips for Parents and Caregivers
- Minnesota COVID-19 Hotlines:
- Health questions (MDH): 651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903
- Child care questions (MDE): 651-297-1304 or 1-800-657-3504