In addition to not shaking hands, wearing gloves and masks, self-quarantining, etc., here are other things you can do to stay safe and not bring disease home to at-risk family members, including the elderly (especially those who have other risk factors such as diabetes, heart disease, respiratory issues), and those with compromised immunities:
- Wear protective eye gear — even eyeglasses are better than nothing, especially if they have large lenses. It isn’t just the nose and mouth that you have to protect!
- Double your cloth or paper mask with a paper towel or coffee filter. (Don’t use diapers if you’ve seen that viral video of a woman cutting one up to wear on her face. Parents with young children desperately NEED them!)
- If you don’t have medical gloves, use what you have — and wash after every use.
- Wipe down your shopping cart, particularly the baby seat where a little one’s diaper may have leaked, or line it with a large garbage bag or box you can recycle.
- Wipe down any door handle before you go into the fridge or freezer.
- Wipe down items before they go into a clean cart.
- Avoid touching electronic pens, touchscreens, and doorknobs to the extent you can — especially if you are at a store, gas station, doctor’s visit, hospital, or other highly trafficked area.
- Make sure your checker (especially at the pharmacy) wipes down the counter or conveyor belt. (Most stores have directed staff to do this now.) If they don’t do this automatically, politely explain that you or someone you care for is extremely vulnerable. This protects them, too — and now we know that the people at the checkout are at high risk, too.
- Ask her or him to change gloves or apply antibiotic gel, as the last person who touched her or his groceries (or the ones before that person) may have the virus. Not one checker has objected to this, especially when I offered a clean pair of gloves or anti-bacterial wipe. If they have gloves, they can just apply the gel to them.
- Or use self-checkout, never letting your clean items touch the scanner before going into a clean bag.
- Clean your credit card with anti-bacterial cloth after swiping it. (The last people who used the machine may have coughed into their hands and contaminated the machine! Don’t put that back on your hand.) If you cannot clean your card immediately, put it in a secure pocket, not your wallet, to avoid contaminating other items. Better yet, use your smartphone for payment.
- Take your gloves off before you get back in your car. Peel them off inside out in case you did touch something that was contaminated. Keep a trash bag in your car, or toss them into the trash outside the store after you return your cart.
- These measures also apply when you pump your own gas or take public transportation. Viruses can live on hard surfaces for days.
- Don’t track the virus in! Take your shoes off before or as you enter your home and wash your hands.
- Wear your gloves when you open any delivered items, recycle the box, leave the item out for three days if you can’t wash it down, or consider spraying with an anti-bacterial agent.
- Do not let people come into your home unless absolutely necessary.
- If someone must come in, use protective measures. Have her or him remove her or his shoes or put booties on, wash her or his hands, and put on gloves and a mask. If s/he touches her or his face, ask your visitor to start over by washing her or his hands and changing masks.
- Let your mail rest. Few things are essential. Maybe leave paper for a day, but plastic covered mail for three days as the virus reportedly lasts that long. Or spray/wash with an anti-bacterial agent.
- Finally, go telemed, if you can! Most doctors are going this direction, but there are circumstances when you absolutely need a face-to-face visit. Check with your health provider, if you are unsure.
As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. You and your loved ones at high risk are worth the extra effort.
By Serrin M. Foster