CDC reminds people hand-washing is effective prevention against coronavirus

With the threat of a coronavirus pandemic looming, health officials are reminding people that hand-washing — done the right way — is one of the most effective means to keep it at bay.

This hands-on guide describes the best technique to accomplish the simple task.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises people to spend at least 20 seconds scrubbing their hands, especially after going to the bathroom and before eating — as well as after blowing their nose, coughing or sneezing.

Follow these steps every time:

— Wet your hands with running water and apply a copious amount of soap.

— Lather your hands, rub the back of your hands and interlock your fingers.

— Scrub and rotate your hands.

— Clean your thumbs, the top of your fingers and your wrists.

— Rinse off the soap and dry your hands with a clean towel.

If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol — but always use soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.

Keep in mind that sanitizers do not get rid of all types of germs.

Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a statement on Tuesday advising Americans to begin preparing for the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S.

According to the CDC, at this point, the arrival of the coronavirus across the U.S. is an inevitable eventuality rather than a possibility. The only unknown is when exactly it will hit each state.

It’s important to equip yourself with the facts so you know best practices for avoiding infection as well as what to do if you become sick. And, just as it’s vital to keep an emergency preparedness kit in your home in the case of natural disaster, there are health essentials to stock up on to best avoid coronavirus infection or to have on hand before you might get sick.

Here’s all you need to know ahead of the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S.

Most important practices to stay healthy

In an ideal scenario, interventions by the CDC and other health organizations will mitigate the virus so that it’s contained or at least the spread is minimized. However, it’s best that individuals practice preventative measures, both for personal and public well-being. Here are the main ways to keep yourself, your loved ones, and everyone around you healthy.

1. Wash your hands

While this sounds obvious, it is the simplest way to fight germs. Wash your hands not only after using the bathroom and before preparing food, but also throughout the day after you come into contact with public spaces (like a public bus, a staircase railing, a doorknob, etc.). The CDC advises that each hand washing last at least 20 seconds, with vigorous scrubbing using soap and warm water (the friction during hand washing is key). Use an antibacterial soap, and if you have kids, make sure to wash their hands frequently, too. Simple hand sanitizer won’t cut it alone.

2. Sanitize surfaces

Beyond washing your hands after they come into contact with the outside world, you should sanitize the surfaces that you’re in contact with regularly, says the CDC. This includes your keyboard, phone, countertops, tables and desks, doorknobs, touchscreens, your children’s toys, remote controls, and any other objects that you tend to touch in your daily life — especially if they’re also touched by other people. To do this, you can use alcohol-based wipes or household cleaning spray.

3. Stay away from anyone who is coughing or sneezing

This tip is simple: keep away from people who seem sick. Even if they’re sick with a common cold, coming into contact with their germs will lower your immune system, making you more susceptible to other more serious viruses.

4. Cover your own coughs and sneezes

If you’re coughing and sneezing, even if it’s just due to seasonal allergies, make sure you’re covering them to keep others around you safe. The CDC recommends using a tissue to cover coughs and sneezes rather than a hand or elbow. And if you can stay home if you have any symptoms of illness, always do so.

5. Avoid touching your face

This can be difficult, but as much as you can, you should stop yourself from touching your nose, mouth, and eyes. If you have kids, you should also watch them to make sure they aren’t touching their faces or putting their hands or foreign objects in their mouths.

6. Stay home when you’re sick

Do not go to work, to the grocery store, or anywhere else when you’re sick. While it can be tempting to power through illness (taking time off work can be extremely difficult, especially if you’re paid hourly or don’t have sick days), resting and keeping your germs contained is critical. Without adequate rest, you’re more likely to get more seriously ill and if you’re out in public, you can infect other people. If your children get sick, keep them at home. If you’re caring for an elderly person or someone with a compromised immune system, make sure they get appropriate and quick medical care if they fall ill.

7. Maintain a healthy lifestyle

Developing healthy practices builds a foundation that will help you stay well even during times of pandemic infection. In general, when you can, you should eat healthy, natural foods like vegetables, lean proteins, grains, and fruits. Take a multivitamin, get plenty of sleep, stay physically active, and reduce stress.

What to do before coronavirus reaches your area

Many coronavirus-prevention products, like respirators and hand sanitizer, are already selling out as fears rise, so it’s a good idea to get them now just to make sure you have what you need in case of emergency. Having these on hand can provide peace of mind and might be helpful if the coronavirus reaches your area.

Here are the items to stock up on:

Antibacterial soap: Since washing your hands is such a critical infection prevention method, you should make sure your home and office are stocked with plenty of antibacterial soap. Keep your hands, your children’s hands, and the hands of anyone in your care clean as much as possible.

Disinfectant wipes/spray: You should keep a pack of disinfectant wipes in the most highly trafficked rooms in your home (like your bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, kids’ rooms, etc.) and one on your desk at work. It’s also a good idea to carry a pack in your bag if you take public transit or are traveling. Keep your standard household cleaning spray on hand as well, and aim to disinfect the most-touched surfaces and items as regularly as possible.

Hand sanitizer: The CDC recommends that when you don’t have access to a sink to wash your hands, you should opt for an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. Sanitizers that meet CDC standards are selling out on quickly on Amazon right now, but you can still get this EO Hand Sanitizing Gel for your bedside, these EO Hand Sanitizer Wipes for your desk, and these portable EO Hand Sanitizer Sprays for your purse/backpack, all of which contain 62 percent alcohol.

Heavy-duty N95 masks: While the CDC doesn’t recommend that those who are well wear a facemask to protect from respiratory diseases like the coronavirus, the organization does advise that those exhibiting symptoms wear N95 Particulate Filtering Facepiece Respirators to prevent the infection from spreading to others. Healthcare professionals and those serving as caretakers should also wear them.

As these masks are quickly selling out on Amazon, it might provide peace of mind to have some on hand in case of infection. It’s important that you make sure to purchase N95 respirators and not surgical masks; see this infographic from the CDC if you’re uncertain about the difference. Here’s a list of N95 respirators approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Prescriptions and over-the-counter medications: In case of worst-case scenario, it’s wise to stock up on any prescriptions (at least one month’s worth) for yourself and anyone in your care, as well as OTC medications like anti-fever and pain relievers. You will not want to venture out for these while you are sick and need to rest at home. You might also want to introduce a multivitamin to your routine, as well as immune-supporting supplements like vitamin C and elderberry, just in case.

Tissues: In case of any coughing or sneezing, you’ll want to cover your mouth with tissues. Get a box of tissues for your desktop as well as a pocket pack to keep with you.

General supplies: Act as if you’re preparing for any natural disaster. Stock up on filtered water, paper/hygiene products, shelf-stable foods, household cleaning products (like dish soap, laundry detergent, and bleach), batteries, pet food, etc.

What to do if you get sick

Worried that you caught the coronavirus? Check these common symptoms of the virus as reported by the World Health Organization:

• Respiratory symptoms

• Shortness of breath and breathing difficulties

• Cough

• Fever

If you suspect you have the coronavirus, you should stay home and take proper care of yourself. When in doubt, call your medical professional to determine if you need in-person medical treatment.

Even if your allergies are acting up or you come down with a cold, it’s best to play it safe right now. Keep sniffly kids home from school, keep an eye on vulnerable people in your care (like the elderly and immunocompromised individuals), and work from home or take time off if you start to feel unwell.

Not only will this help prevent you, your kids, and anyone in your care from getting more seriously sick, it will also protect the people around you (like your coworkers and community members) from coming into contact with your germs.