As coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) spreads throughout the United States, it’s important to refresh one’s memory on basic disease prevention techniques - and parents should be passing these techniques on to their children. The number one way to prevent COVID-19 - along with other diseases like the flu - is hand-washing. Frequently washing your hands using the correct technique is the best way to kill germs and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The Best Ways To Kill Coronavirus In Your Home
Your kitchen cabinet may already be stocked with cleaning agents that can kill coronavirus. But not all chemicals will work, and none are as gentle on your skin as commercial hand sanitizers, according to Rutgers University experts. Siobain Duffy, an Associate Professor of ecology with expertise in emerging viruses and microbial evolution, and Donald Schaffner, a Distinguished Professor and extension specialist in food science with expertise in microbial risk assessment and handwashing, offer the following tips for cleaning to kill the pathogens that cause COVID-19 and other deadly diseases. “Not many scientific studies have asked which are the most effective disinfecting agents to use against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, because it was discovered so recently,” Duffy says. “So scientists are assuming that what works against other coronaviruses can work against this one.” Schaffner added, “Each disinfecting chemical has its own specific instructions. But an important general rule is that you shouldn’t immediately wipe a cleaning solution off as soon as you’ve applied it to a surface. Let it sit there long enough to kill viruses first.”
General Disinfecting Guidelines
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends daily disinfection for frequently touched surfaces such as tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets and sinks. The CDC also recommends the use of detergent or soap and water on dirty surfaces prior to disinfection. If someone in your home is sick with flu-like symptoms, consider regularly disinfecting objects in your home since SARS-CoV-2 has been shown to survive for 16 hours on plastics.
Whatever cleaning solution you use, let it remain in contact with the surface long enough to kill viruses and other pathogens. The time needed will depend on the chemical. Don’t use different cleaning agents at the same time. Some household chemicals, if mixed, can create dangerous and poisonous gases.
Bleach can be diluted with cold water to make an effective disinfectant against bacteria, fungi and many viruses including coronaviruses. You can typically use ¼ cup of bleach per one gallon of cold water, but be sure to follow the directions on the label of your bleach. Make dilute bleach solution as needed and use it within 24 hours, as its disinfecting ability fades with time.
Non-porous items like plastic toys can be immersed in bleach for 30 seconds. Household surfaces that won’t be damaged by bleach should get 10 or more minutes of exposure. Bleach solutions are very hard on the skin, and should not be used as a substitute for handwashing and/or hand sanitizer.
Alcohol in many forms, including rubbing alcohol, can be effective for killing many pathogens. You can dilute alcohol with water - or aloe vera to make hand sanitizer - but be sure to keep an alcohol concentration of around 70 percent to kill coronaviruses. Many hand sanitizers have a concentration of about 60 percent alcohol, and Lysol contains about 80 percent. These are all effective against coronaviruses.
Solutions of 70 percent alcohol should be left on surfaces for 30 seconds, including cellphones, but check the advice of the phone manufacturer to make sure you don’t void the warranty to ensure they will kill viruses. Pure (100 percent) alcohol evaporates too quickly for this purpose. Containers of 70 percent alcohol should be sealed to prevent evaporation. But unlike bleach solutions, they will remain potent as long as they are sealed between uses. A 70 percent alcohol solution with water will be very harsh on your hands and should not be used as a substitute for handwashing and/or hand sanitizer.
Hydrogen peroxide is typically sold in concentrations of about three percent. It can be used as is, or diluted to 0.5% percent concentration for effective use against coronaviruses on surfaces. It should be left on surfaces for one minute before wiping.
Vinegar, tea tree oil and other natural products are not recommended for fighting coronaviruses. A study on influenza virus found that cleaning with a 10 percent solution of malt vinegar was effective, but few other studies have found vinegar to be able to kill a significant fraction of viruses or other microbes. While tea tree oil may help control the virus that causes cold sores, there is no evidence that it can kill coronaviruses.
How To Prepare Your Family For COVID-19
The CDC’s guidance suggests that families need to be prepared for an outbreak close to home. The purpose of a quarantine is to keep people that may be infected or have been exposed in some way to coronavirus from having contact with others, so it’s really important for people to heed a community quarantine. The first thing families need to do is create a household plan of action. This plan should include:
- A list of supplies the family would need to sustain itself in the case of a community quarantine. Think food, water, medication, pet food and toiletries.
- A plan of action if a member of the family gets sick.
- A plan for child care if school or day care is closed.
- A plan for care if home health aides can’t attend a loved one.
When it comes to food, think beyond bread and milk.
- You’ll need enough food to last for at least two weeks.
- Stock up on canned foods, frozen foods and dry goods.
- Think about meals that you can prepare without power, just in case there are utility gaps.
- Have a supply of water on hand for drinking, but also for cooking, cleaning and bathing.
- Refuel generators and gas grills now.
- And stock up on your favorites, especially if you have a picky eater in the family.
And don’t forget about medications, first aid kit supplies and pet food.
If a member of the family begins to show signs of a cold or flu, the family needs to have a plan for how that sick loved one will be isolated from other family members and who will take the lead on their care. Needs will look different for each family.
- For families with kids – get in touch with schools and child care centers so that you know what their plans are in the case of a local confirmed case of coronavirus.
- For families with older or ill loved ones – get in touch with the long-term care facility to learn what its plans are to keep the community safe. If a loved one needs to be moved in with the family, start planning now to prepare that room for their unique accessibility needs.
- For families with a disabled loved one – have all the medication and tools you need to manage at home, and get in touch with any specialty care provider to get their input on your household care plan.
It is likely that more cases of COVID-19 will be confirmed in the coming weeks, but families should remember that basic universal precautions like getting the flu vaccine and good personal hygiene are the best ways to protect yourself and your family. “Prevention is key,” says José Cordero, a pediatrician and epidemiologist with the University of Georgia College of Public Health who studies infectious disease spread and its impact on families. “It’s important to remember that the U.S. has had practice handling infectious disease response for swine flu, Ebola, and most recently Zika. We’re better prepared now because of those experiences to keep people safe, but it will require us all to practice basic prevention.”
What To Do If You Are Sick
If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever and symptoms, such as cough or difficulty breathing, call your healthcare provider for medical advice.
Watch For Symptoms
Reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death for confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases.
The following symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure.
- Shortness of breath
This is based on what has been seen previously as the incubation period of MERS-CoV viruses.
If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19 get medical attention immediately. Emergency warning signs include:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion or inability to arouse
- Bluish lips or face
This list is not all inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning.
Preventing The Spread Of COVID-19 If You Are Sick
If you are sick with COVID-19 or think you might have it, follow the steps below to help protect other people in your home and community.
Stay home except to get medical care:
- Stay home: People who are mildly ill with COVID-19 are able to recover at home. Do not leave, except to get medical care. Do not visit public areas.
- Stay in touch with your doctor. Call before you get medical care. Be sure to get care if you feel worse or you think it is an emergency.
- Avoid public transportation: Avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.
Separate yourself from other people in your home - known as home isolation:
- Stay away from others: As much as possible, you should stay in a specific “sick room” and away from other people in your home. Use a separate bathroom if available.
- Limit contact with pets and animals: You should restrict contact with pets and other animals, just like you would around other people. Although there have not been reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19, it is still recommended that people with the virus limit contact with animals until more information is known. When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you are sick with COVID-19. If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wash your hands before and after you interact with them. See COVID-19 and Animals for more information.
If Someone In Your Home Is Sick
Call ahead before visiting your doctor:
- Call ahead: If you have a medical appointment, call your doctor’s office or emergency department, and tell them you have or may have COVID-19. This will help the office protect themselves and other patients.
Wear A Facemask If You Are Sick
- If you are sick: You should wear a facemask when you are around other people and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office.
- If you are caring for others: If the person who is sick is not able to wear a facemask - for example because it causes trouble breathing - then people who live in the home should stay in a different room. When caregivers enter the room of the sick person, they should wear a facemask. Visitors, other than caregivers, are not recommended.
Cover Your Coughs And Sneezes
- Cover: Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
- Dispose: Throw used tissues in a lined trash can.
- Wash hands: Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
Clean Your Hands Often
- Wash hands: Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. This is especially important after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food.
- Hand sanitizer: If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol, covering all surfaces of your hands and rubbing them together until they feel dry.
- Soap and water: Soap and water are the best option, especially if hands are visibly dirty.
- Avoid touching: Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Avoid sharing personal household items:
- Do not share: Do not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people in your home.
- Wash thoroughly after use: After using these items, wash them thoroughly with soap and water or put in the dishwasher.
Clean All “High-Touch” Surfaces Everyday
Clean high-touch surfaces in your isolation area - “sick room” and bathroom - every day; let a caregiver clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces in other areas of the home.
- Clean and disinfect: Routinely clean high-touch surfaces in your “sick room” and bathroom. Let someone else clean and disinfect surfaces in common areas, but not your bedroom and bathroom. If a caregiver or other person needs to clean and disinfect a sick person’s bedroom or bathroom, they should do so on an as-needed basis. The caregiver/other person should wear a mask and wait as long as possible after the sick person has used the bathroom.
High-touch surfaces include phones, remote controls, counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables. Clean and disinfect areas that may have blood, stool, or body fluids on them.
- Household cleaners and disinfectants: Clean the area or item with soap and water or another detergent if it is dirty. Then, use a household disinfectant. Be sure to follow the instructions on the label to ensure safe and effective use of the product. Many products recommend keeping the surface wet for several minutes to ensure germs are killed. Many also recommend precautions such as wearing gloves and making sure you have good ventilation during use of the product.
Most EPA-registered household disinfectants should be effective.
Coping Mentally With The COVID-19 Pandemic
Being nervous about the chances that you, a loved one, or a friend may come down with this novel coronavirus is common. These feelings can be intensified by the seemingly nonstop news coverage on the topic. While meant to provide information and, to some degree, to reassure the public, such round-the-clock coverage can lead to panic, especially as the COVID-19 outbreaks are now closer to home. Thankfully, there are a number of ways to deal with these feelings, including that old favorite, taking a deep breath. Doing so enables more air to flow into your body and can help calm your nerves while also reducing stress and anxiety. So let’s start there.
Nuvance Health has provided answers to common questions and more tips to help you during this stressful time:
What can we do to manage anxiety and fear during this COVID-19 pandemic?
Recognize it’s normal to panic: As human beings, we’re susceptible to panic during unknown and stressful events. Having this awareness can actually help to manage the panic because you know it’s not uncommon. If you already have existing anxiety, focus on the coping strategies you regularly practice when there are triggering events like this outbreak of COVID-19.
Stick to the facts: Focusing on facts is a better way to judge the risk, rather than relying on peers and social media. Even with standard media, make sure the sources of your information are from trusted sources. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is an excellent and sound source for factual, current information, as well as your state and local health departments and hospitals.
Stick to what you can control: Keep to your routine as best you can, while following the guidelines provided by the CDC, state and local health departments, and your local hospitals. Routines can be soothing because they are familiar. Remember to exercise, eat well, stay hydrated, and get enough sleep to keep your immune system strong, which is important to reduce the risk of getting sick with other illnesses - we’re still in cold and flu season - and to help manage stress.
Remember that you’re not alone: Touch base with loved ones, family, and friends through your usual daily activities; if that doesn’t include in-person get-togethers, try phone calls or video chats. Keep in mind that everyone is going through this now. With all of us in essentially the same situation, you can achieve a sense of “we’ll figure this out together.” This mindset can be empowering and uplifting.
Put things in perspective: The vast majority of viral infections are not from this new coronavirus; they continue to be common cold and flu. Refrain from thinking that anyone who has a cough or fever must have COVID-19. The risk of serious illness from COVID-19 remains low. Most infected people will experience mild upper respiratory symptoms, including cough, nasal congestion, and a fever.
Continue to enjoy life: The sun is still shining. Babies are still being born. People are still producing great work. So continue to enjoy your life, and feel good when you follow guidelines to reduce your risk of possible exposure to COVID-19.
Is there anything we can look forward to?
Yes! Every crisis is an opportunity. If you end up in self-isolation, and your routine changes in some way, find something positive in that. For example, take up a new home-based hobby that you’ve been wanting to do, such as meditation or yoga; start that book you’ve been wanting to read.
Strong bonds are formed during times like these that probably wouldn’t have formed under normal circumstances. Remember that we’re facing adversity together, and that strong social connections are how we survive these types of events. Again, fear - and even panic - are normal emotions to experience during events like these. Accept that, stay informed with accurate facts, and remember that we’re all in this together. And, yes, take a deep breath.
Staying Physically Active And Managing Stress
Physical activity is associated with a healthier immune system. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults achieve 150 to 300 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity and two sessions per week of muscle strength training. However, the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic presents challenges to maintaining a physically active lifestyle. With gym and community center closures, individuals and families are being forced to adapt their routines and find new ways to be active at home. “For all of us, young and old, regular physical activity remains an important strategy for staying healthy,” says American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Past President Liz Joy, M.D., M.P.H., FACSM. “Compared to being sedentary, moderate-intensity physical activity is associated with better immune function. Regular physical activity is also associated with lower levels of anxiety and perceived stress, which many of us are feeling. Fit in two, five, 10 or 20 minutes of activity, however and wherever you can. Every active minute counts!”
Here are a few strategies to help you maintain physical activity from the comfort of your home:
Indoor Aerobic Activities
- Put some music on and walk briskly around the house or up and down the stairs for 10 to 15 minutes two or three times per day
- Dance to your favorite music
- Jump rope (if your joints can handle it)
- Do an exercise video
- Use home cardio machines if you have them
Outdoor Aerobic Activities
- Walk or jog around your neighborhood (avoid crowded spaces)
- Be active in a local park. Spending time in nature may enhance immune function. Be sure to wash your hands when you get home.
- Go for a bicycle ride.
- Do gardening and lawn work. Spring is here!
- Play active games with your family.
Muscle Strength Training
- Download a strength workout app to your smart phone, such as the Seven-Minute Workout (no equipment necessary)
- Do a strength training video
- Perform yoga. Deep breathing and mindfulness can also reduce anxiety.
- Find ways to do simple muscle strengthening exercises around your house such as squats or sit-to-stands from a sturdy chair; push-ups against a wall, the kitchen counter or the floor; lunges or single leg step-ups on stairs
- Don’t sit all day! If watching TV, get up during every commercial and do a lap around your home or an active chore - throw some clothes in the laundry, do the dishes or take out the garbage. Feel productive after just one show!
Managing Stress During The COVID-19 Pandemic
While we are all focusing on taking care of our physical health as the outbreak of COVID-19 develops, it’s also important to keep our mental health a priority. When there is a major concern for ourselves or our loved ones falling ill, the emotional impact of that can be great. It’s human nature to want to stay informed, however, it is important that overexposure of media coverage can cause more stress. “Many people will turn to social media or the news to learn more about what’s happening, thinking that this will help. While being informed is important, continuously checking the news and seeing repeated images and reports about the virus can provoke more anxiety without necessarily increasing knowledge about virus transmission,” says Leslie K. Taylor, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Louis A. Faillace, MD, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth.
Instead of information overload, consider designating specific time to check reliable sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. Both organizations give regular updates on COVID-19 and share methods for coping with the outbreak. Individuals with preexisting mental health conditions, including substance use, may be more vulnerable to stress. “Keeping a routine, eating healthy, and resting will help alleviate stress,” Taylor continued. “If self-quarantining, maintaining a sense of connection with friends, family and community is also important. Isolation from others can result in feeling sad or hopeless.”
Taking time for ourselves by doing things that we enjoy or keep us calm can help us get through this difficult time. Create a list of practical relaxation activities and perform them a few times a day. This can be meditating, deep breathing, stretching or even just sitting quietly and mindfully. It’s okay to be upset, but we should all stay hopeful. Experts in public health are working across the world to deliver high-quality care and ensure everyone’s safety. Prolonged isolation and separation as a result of quarantine or illness could have a traumatic impact on families as a whole.
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With over 30 years of writing and editing experience for newspapers, magazines and corporate communications, Kevin Kerfoot writes about natural health, nutrition, skincare and oral hygiene for Trusted Health Products’ natural health blog and newsletters.
Founder Ray Spotts has a passion for all things natural and has made a life study of nature as it relates to health and well-being. Ray became a forerunner bringing products to market that are extraordinarily effective and free from potentially harmful chemicals and additives. For this reason Ray formed Trusted Health Products, a company you can trust for clean, effective, and healthy products. Ray is an organic gardener, likes fishing, hiking, and teaching and mentoring people to start new businesses. You can get his book for free, “How To Succeed In Business Based On God’s Word,” at www.rayspotts.com.