Fact and Discovery

How to protect yourself from the coronavirus

Good hygiene and social distancing remain the top two tactics.

How likely are you to get the coronavirus?

Anyone can contract COVID-19, although certain groups of people have a higher risk of developing serious complications from the virus and requiring hospitalization. Many people who get coronavirus will experience cold- or flu-like symptoms, and some people who get the virus will be completely asymptomatic.

But no matter which group you fall into, everyone has a responsibility to limit the spread to other people, especially to those who may develop deadly complications, Dr. Tom Moorcroft, an osteopathic doctor who specializes in infectious disease, tells CNET.

 

How to protect yourself from the coronavirus

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The virus under a microscope. You can get the virus if someone who has it sneezes or coughs on you.Getty Images

Nothing has changed about the way COVID-19 spreads, Dr. Moorcroft says, so the basics still apply. The coronavirus is spread through the respiratory vapor, such as when someone sneezes or coughs into the air around you. It can also spread if someone who is infected sneezes or coughs into their hand, then touches a door handle, light switch and other “high-touch” surfaces.

Influenza viruses and common cold viruses are also spread this way. However, now that the virus is more widespread in the US, other preventative guidelines do apply, such as the now-well-known concept of social distancing.

Wash your hands

Yes, this is still the no. 1 way to prevent coronavirus, Dr. Moorcroft says. “The things you should do to protect yourself from the coronavirus are things you should do every day,” he points out. “The no. 1 thing you can do to prevent any respiratory illness is to practice good personal hygiene.”

Washing your hands correctly — using soap and water and washing for at least 20 seconds — or using hand sanitizer when soap and water aren’t available, still stands as the best way to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, according to the CDC.

Stay home

The CDC, the WHO, governments and healthcare workers are all urging people to stay home if they can. Obviously, some people don’t have the luxury of working from home, and people still need to venture out to grocery stores and gas stations. But when you can stay home, do so to flatten the curve.

If you do need to leave the house, follow some basic preventative measures.

Follow local public health guidelines

By mid-March 2020, many states, counties, and cities implemented their own protective measures to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. Many public and private schools are closed, and youth sports programs have been suspended just as college and professional sports have. Restaurants and bars are closed or have limited hours and capabilities, as do other nonessential businesses, such as clothing stores.

If your state or local government has imposed guidelines, you should follow them to the best of your ability.

Boost your immune system

On top of basic illness prevention, Moorcroft says the best (and only real) defense against disease is a strong immune system. Your body is better able to fight off illnesses when your immune system is really humming, he explains, and everyone should put in an effort to get theirs into tip-top shape.

“This is a time to focus on all the health habits you may have been putting off,” Moorcroft says. “Start daily activities and food choices that support your health and turn them into habits that will lead to lifelong improvements in health. During this time, get adequate sleep and some fresh air and sunlight daily.”

Also, stay hydrated, minimize overly processed foods and make sure to eat enough micronutrients when you can (try your best with what you can find at grocery stores right now).

Try to stay calm

In addition to your physical health, you should take care of your mental health. High stress levels can take a toll on your immune system, which is the opposite of what you want in this situation. If you’re feeling overly anxious about COVID-19, follow these tips from a psychotherapist to keep your nerves calm.

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