COVID-19 has many of us living under quarantine conditions or shelter-in-place orders and our homes are the safest places for us. But most of us will eventually have to go out for supplies. So how do you protect yourself from accidental exposure to the virus when you’re out? And how do you protect your home?
While so much about this virus is still unknown, we can all take precautions to minimize our exposure to it:
Before you even venture out, plan for germ control and pack a bag with a few essentials. Having a small supply of napkins, facial tissues, sanitizing wipes, and/or hand sanitizer on hand or in your car can help you manage your exposure to the virus while you’re out. Many stores have wipes available for sanitizing cart handles, but supplies are running low in many areas. Carrying your own sanitizing wipes guarantees you’ll have one available when you need it.
Do you remember playing hot lava as a kid, finding creative ways to get around without touching the floor? Until we get the all-clear on this pandemic, play hot lava with your hands. The goal is to find creative ways to get around outside your home without touching anything with bare hands.
Doors, elevators, cross walk buttons, keyboards, ATMs, light switches, faucets, drawer pulls, PIN pads. These are all items we’re used to touching with our hands, often without a second thought. And most often with our index finger –– the same one you might also use to scratch your face or brush your hair out of your eyes.
If you can, figure out a way to use a different body part, preferably a covered one. Push a door with your foot, elbow, or hip. Or wrap your hand in your sleeve or hem of your shirt before touching a surface. For small touch pads, like ATM buttons, try using a knuckle instead of a fingertip.
A small package of sanitizing wipes can save you from touching many surfaces. And they give you the added bonus of busting germs. Use them to wipe shopping cart handles, your debit or credit card, car keys, your door handle, or any other surface you may have touched while out. Travel packs are in short supply but tucking a few wipes into a small zip lock bag before you leave the house works just as well.
If you do have to enter a building, look for an automatic door button. These are put in place for people with mobility issues or to open doors when hands are not an option. In a hospital or clinic, you might notice staff bumping those buttons with elbows or hips. Follow their lead! Healthcare workers are pros at avoiding germs.
Phones were already one of the germiest items we owned before the pandemic. You don’t want to travel out without your phone, but you definitely want to be vigilant about where it is at all times. Do you normally put your phone on the cashier stand when you pay for groceries? Or in the phone-sized basket on the shopping cart (my favorite because I keep my shopping list on my phone)? Consider keeping your phone in your pocket instead or put a paper towel under your phone anytime you put it down. Try to put a barrier between your phone and any surface outside your home.
It is very tempting to pick through produce and other grocery items to choose the best option, but before you do that, consider how many other hands may have touched the same items (and vow not to be one of them!). A good compromise is to use a produce bag like a glove; when you find the right item, simply hang onto it and pull your hand back through the bag. Voila! Picked and bagged without touching skin. Don’t forget to wash your produce well when you get it home.
Whenever you can, pay with plastic or your phone. You have full control over who touches your card and phone, while cash passes through countless hands in a day. If you use a credit or debit card, wipe it down before returning it to your wallet or pocket.
And always, always wash your hands as soon as you get home.
If you’ve been out in public and are worried about bringing germs back into your home, you can take steps to minimize any exposure:
Your body might be telling you to hunker down under a blanket and eat comfort food until this is over — and a little bit of that is ok — but it’s especially important to take care of your physical and emotional health right now. Healthy food, exercise, adequate sleep, and stress management are essential to support your immune system.
So fight the virus by controlling your exposure as much as possible, but also by making healthy decisions for your overall physical and emotional health.