When dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, it can be reassuring to remember that a simple approach has been proven to be best. Health experts all agree that the most effective coronavirus prevention is to follow the same basic personal hygiene practices we follow every cold and flu season.
Need a refresher? We’re here to help.
1. Personal hygiene: make sure to wash – and dry – your hands properly
Plain, normal soap is a highly effective and efficient way of killing a virus when it’s on your skin. This is because soap works to loosens the glue between the virus and your skin, as well as breaking up the virus itself in a way other disinfectant products can’t.
While things like alcohol-based antibacterial sprays, wipes, gels and creams (which typically contain 60-80% alcohol) can help when soap isn’t available or practical, they aren’t quite as good or as effective. It’s also important to remember that anything that says it’s antibacterial doesn’t work nearly as well on viruses.
It's crucial to make sure you’re washing your hands thoroughly. It might feel silly to watch a video on how exactly you should be doing it, but you might be surprised at what key steps you’re missing. The NHS has a handy step-by-step guide to handwashing.
Drying your hands properly is also important, as germs thrive in moist, damp environments. When you’re at home, experts agree that the most hygienic way to dry is with a regular towel (just make sure to wash it every few days if it’s used daily). If you are in a public space, paper towels are often the most hygienic option, and can also be used to turn off the tap or open the door, if you’re worried about re-contaminating your hands.
2. How to protect yourself from the coronavirus: stop touching your face
Germs can get into the body through the eyes, nose and mouth so it’s important to avoid face touching as much as possible. This can be harder than it sounds – one 2015 study showed that people touch their face about 23 times per hour.
The coronavirus can last for anything from hours to days on surfaces so the chances of you touching something infected (think handrails, door knobs and counters) and then touching your face are high, which is why we are being advised to wash our hands thoroughly and frequently.
If you deal with people a lot consider wearing gloves. Where possible, try to find ways to break your face-touching habits: examine where you most tend to do it, ask friends and family to look out for face-touching and even sit on your hands if you have to.
3. Coronavirus prevention when out and about: be responsible and respectful
If you need to leave home for whatever reason, try to observe good personal hygiene and social distancing practices to help stop the virus from spreading further. Avoid shaking hands where possible, leave at least 2m between you and others, and if you need to sneeze or cough do it into a tissue or your arm.
If you can, avoid public transport and busy spaces and make sure to take off your shoes and wash your hands as soon as you get home.
4. How to protect your home from the coronavirus: Disinfect frequently touched surfaces
Keep your home germ free by disinfecting all commonly touched surfaces in your home using a highly effective agent like hypochlorite (bleach) as recommended by the Centre for Disease Control. Use nine parts cold water to one part bleach and a clean cloth to wipe down surfaces such as taps, toilets, tables, kitchen counters, door handles and floors. For items such as mobile phones, computer keyboards and mouses use disinfectant wipes.