6 Surprising Ways to Avoid the New Coronavirus (Not to Mention the Cold and Flu)

You’ve doubled down on handwashing and have perfected the elbow bump, but there’s more you can do to stay on the healthy list

towels hanging

By now, you know that washing your hands is one of the best ways to protect yourself from the coronavirus pandemic. Maybe you also diligently wipe down doorknobs and distance yourself from people who are coughing or sneezing.

But is there anything else you can do to keep healthy? Absolutely.

First, support your immune system with plenty of sleep, a well-balanced diet packed with fruits and veggies, and regular exercise. Then, follow these simple strategies. They’ll not only help shield you from COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus, but from other contagious bugs, too (cold and flu, we’re looking at you).

1. Use a Stress Ball
Touching your face with unwashed hands can expose you to the coronavirus, since “your eyes, nose, and mouth are portals of entry into your body,” explains Connie Steed, MSN, RN, president of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC).

We rub our eyes and itch our noses constantly: According to APIC, people touch their faces an average of 23 times an hour. Steed has found that having a stress ball at her desk helps keep her hands busy, so she’s less likely to absentmindedly touch her face.

Keep in mind that you won’t get the coronavirus from simply touching a contaminated surface; the virus doesn’t get absorbed through the skin on your hands.

“What puts you at risk is where your hands go after you touch a surface,” Steed says. That’s why avoiding your face and washing your hands are so important.

2. Clean Your Cell Phone
Even before the new coronavirus came on the scene, our cell phones were crawling with tens of thousands of germs. It makes sense, considering we pick them up an average of 52 times a day.

Your phone could be a landing point for the new coronavirus if you, say, touched a contaminated doorknob and then reached for your phone. Or if you placed your phone on top of a busy office conference room table where contaminated droplets had landed.

Recent research from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the National Institutes of Health show that new coronavirus droplets linger—and remain infectious—for two to three days on plastic, stainless steel, and other similar hard surfaces.

That’s why you should clean your phone daily. Check with the manufacturer of your gadget for the best way to clean it; some phones have fingerprint-resistant coatings that can be damaged by aggressive cleaning methods.

Apple recently updated its site to say that, even though iPhones have that coating, it’s safe to gently wipe their exteriors with either a 70-percent isopropyl alcohol wipe or a Clorox disinfecting wipe.

3. Shop Using “Contactless Payment”
Lots of hands touch the keypad at the grocery store checkout and your local ATM. And research shows that cash and coins can carry viruses and lead to the spread of disease. That’s what led China to take the dramatic step of disinfecting its cash supply, as part of its efforts to push back against the new coronavirus.

The antidote? Consider using touchless payment methods like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Google Pay to minimize your contact with germs. If you do use cash or touch a keypad, try to use hand sanitizer with at least 60-percent alcohol right after.

And remember to wash your hands with soap and water when you get home from the store.

4. Assign Everyone in the House Their Own Towel
You know not to share a toothbrush, but have you considered your towel?

Think about it: “You’re using it to rub yourself dry, which can leave germs on the towel,” Steed explains. “If someone else picks it up and uses it, those germs can spread between you [two].”

In addition to making sure that everyone in your house has their own linens, wash your towels every three to four days—or whenever they look soiled, Steed suggests. If you or another family member is not feeling well, bump up the cleaning schedule to daily, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The coronavirus doesn’t hold up well to cleaning, so you don’t need to use bleach, says Steed. Simply wash towels in hot water and dry them on high. While you’re at it, make sure you’re not sharing cups or utensils either.

5. Carry Your Own Pen
Before the NBA suspended its season, players got a memo about the coronavirus, telling them to “avoid taking items (pens, markers, balls, jerseys, etc.) from fans to sign autographs.”

It’s a smart strategy: When you grab any available pen to, say, fill out paperwork at an airport or bank, you have no idea how many unwashed hands could have touched it before you.

6. Switch from Contact Lenses to Eyeglasses
If you’re meticulous about washing your hands often and thoroughly (that means for at least 20 seconds using soap and water), there’s no reason to stop wearing your contact lenses, says Steed.

But if you’re not always super buttoned-up about these things, switching to glasses could minimize your risk of infection by cutting down on how often you touch and rub your eyes throughout the day.

When Steed’s son was a teenager and there was a bug going around her house, for example, she would ask him to switch to glasses. “I knew he wasn’t going to put his contact lenses in properly every time,” she says, so wearing his specs helped stop him from spreading germs.

If you do continue to wear your contacts, make sure you keep the lenses sparkling clean. Every night, rub them with clean hands using a few drops of multipurpose solution. Follow that with a quick rinse using a fresh splash of solution, and then soak them overnight in (you guessed it) more solution.

Your contact lens case needs attention, too. Clean it daily with the same solution, and replace it every three months or so—about as often as you swap out your toothbrush.

The information in this story is accurate as of press time and posting. Because the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, we encourage readers to follow the news and recommendations for their own communities by using the resources from the CDC , WHO , and their local public health department.